Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Gabon
As of December 31, 1998

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President Omar Albert-Bernard Bongo, sub-Saharan Africa's second-longest-ruling leader and one of France's staunchest allies in the region, was declared the winner of the December 1997 elections, further consolidating his Democratic Party of Gabon's grip on power. The polls, which virtually eliminated all opposition parties from participation in government, were marred by serious irregularities, the manipulation of state broadcast media, and crackdowns on the independent media for publishing opposition party platforms. Although there are a number of privately owned newspapers and radio stations, the government continues to control all television broadcasting in the country. Authorities relentlessly clamped down on the private media this year, through bans on both the broadcast and print media and jail terms for journalists. And the private radio stations currently in operation face closure at a moment's notice.

On February 20, the National Communication Council, a body composed of presidential appointees, banned the private radio station Radio Soleil for five weeks. The station, which has close ties to the opposition National Union of Timberworkers, was prevented from broadcasting an editorial criticizing President Bongo. On August 12, Michel Ongoundou-Loundah, Raphael Ntoutoume Nkoghe, and Pulchérie Beaumel, respectively publication director, editor in chief, and reporter for the private weekly newspaper La Griffe, were each sentenced to an eight-month prison term and fined CFA 3,000,000 (US$5,000) in damages payable to René Morvan, director general of the state-owned Air Gabon. In June, the newspaper had reported that Morvan was involved in ivory smuggling. On August 13, state security agents raided the offices of La Griffe, detained employees, seized their identity cards, and returned later that evening to confiscate 12,000 copies of the newspaper.

In December, when listeners called in to Radio Soleil's program, "Feed-Back," to discuss fraudulent government activities during the December 1997 elections, authorities jammed the station's signal. Reporting on allegations of torture in Gabon's prisons and financial impropriety by government officials has also brought swift reprisals.
Attacks on the Press in Gabon in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
12/7/98 Radio Soleil Censored
8/12/98 Michel Ongoundou-Loundah, La Griffe Imprisoned, Legal Action
8/12/98 Raphael Ntoutoume Nkoghe, La Griffe Imprisoned, Legal Action
8/12/98 Pulcherie Beaumel, La Griffe Imprisoned, Legal Action
8/12/98 La Griffe Censored
2/20/98 Radio Soleil Censored

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