Freedom of the Press 2010 - Gabon
|Publication Date||30 September 2010|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2010 - Gabon, 30 September 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ca44d962.html [accessed 27 January 2015]|
Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 24
Political Environment: 25
Economic Environment: 22
Total Score: 71
|Total Score, Status||66,NF||67,NF||69,NF||69,NF||69,NF|
The constitution guarantees freedoms of expression and of the press, but authorities used legal harassment, threats, and financial pressure to curb critical reporting in 2009. There is also frequent censorship.
Libel can be treated as either a civil or a criminal offense, and the government is permitted to criminalize civil suits and initiate criminal cases in response to the alleged libel of government officials. Publications can be legally suspended for libel and other press offenses.
In 2009, the government continued to use its main regulatory body, the National Communications Council (CNC), and legal intimidation to curtail critical journalism.
Amid widespread speculation over President Omar Bongo's declining health in May, authorities censored news coverage and harassed the press. Two journalists working for the French television station France 24 were denied entry to Gabon at the airport for allegedly lacking journalistic accreditation. The CNC suspended two local newspapers, the monthly Ezombolo and the satirical weekly Le Nganga, for six months and one month, respectively, over articles speculating on succession battles in Bongo's inner circle.
Self-censorship remained widespread. However, the media increasingly engaged in open discussions on political issues following Bongo's death in June 2009. His son, Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba, was elected president in August.
In late August and early September, several local journalists were assaulted while covering the presidential vote and violent protests over its results. On election day, August 30, authorities cut off broadcasts by TVPlus, a television station owned by opposition presidential candidate Andre Mba Obame. The following day, masked gunmen opened fire on the transmitter of the satellite television station Go Africa, which had been carrying TVPlus content. On September 3, opposition supporters attacked a crew from Radio-Television Nazareth outside the offices of the national electoral commission. Albert Yangari, chief editor of the progovernment newspaper L'Union, was detained and questioned on September 25 in connection with reporting on postelection violence in the coastal city of Port Gentil. Another journalist for L'Union, Jonas Moulenda, went into hiding on September 26 after security agents searched his house in connection with reports questioning the official number of deaths during the Port Gentil violence, according to the central African press freedom organization Journaliste en Danger.
Gabon has seven private radio stations and four private television stations. The government owns two radio stations and two television stations that broadcast nationwide. Satellite television is also available to those who can afford it, and foreign radio broadcasts are widely accessible.
The government-affiliated L'Union is the only daily newspaper in the country, and nine private weeklies and monthlies print sporadically due to financial constraints and government-ordered closures. Foreign publications are readily available.
Government officials and other powerful figures use financial pressure to control the press, and ownership of media outlets is opaque.
In 2009, only 6.7 percent of the population used the internet. There were no reports that the government restricted internet access or monitored e-mail, although Mba Obame alleged that his campaign website was blocked by hackers for two days in August.