World Report - Gabon
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||October 2012|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, World Report - Gabon, October 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50923904121f.html [accessed 26 May 2013]|
- Area: 267,667 sq km
- Population: 1.53 million (2011)
- Language: French
- Head of state: Ali Bongo Ondimba since 2009
After Ali Bongo Ondimba succeeded his father in the Palace by the sea in 2009, the presidency opened up slightly towards the press. But economic pressures and limited access to government information hold back the emergence of independent media. The government's relations with the foreign media continue to be tense and the occasional heavy-handed raid marks its relations with the opposition media.
Many radio and TV stations and newspapers of often questionable quality have emerged in Gabon since the media were opened up to the private sector in April 1990 but, because of insufficient state funding and the lack of a real advertising market, they struggle to survive.
In this small coastal country long regarded as a haven of peace in Central Africa, the media are heavily politicized and political rivalry often spills over into the media domain.
The most obvious example is TV+, a television station owned by former interior minister and now government opponent André Mba Obame, which is virulent in its criticism of government institutions and which has been the target of repeated acts of sabotage.
During the 2009 presidential election, in which Obame was a candidate, masked men machine-gunned the station's transmitters, forcing it off the air for a month. In January 2011, TV+ was suspended for three months after its owner proclaimed himself president on the air. In the summer of 2012, when Obame returned to Gabon after an absence of 14 months, it was the target of three nighttime attacks.
The state-owned media are strictly controlled and keep confusing public service with serving the interests of those in power. At the same time, opposition and pro-government media wage an all-out communication war, especially at election time. Jean Raoul Wa Mbadinga of state-owned RTG1 television paid the price when he was roughed up during an opposition rally in October 2011.
Dressed in all the trappings of legality and impartiality, the National Communication Council (CNC) is heavy-handed in its use of its regulatory prerogatives with recalcitrant opposition media and occasionally even with the pro-government print media. Suspensions are often ordered for "disturbing public order," "failure to respect institutions" or "undermining social peace."
In August 2012, the newspapers Ezombolo and La Une were forbidden to publish for six months. A month later, two satirical weeklies, Le Scribouillard and Le Gri-Gri de la Griffe, were suspended for two months after describing the private life of a former government minister who has joined the opposition.
Combined with a lack of training and intimidation by government politicians, these frequent suspensions foster self-censorship and a continuing acceptance that subjects such as corruption, embezzlement of public funds and human rights are off-limits.
Updated in October 2012