GABON


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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press


MARCH 8, 2004
Posted: April 8, 2004

Alfred Ngamba, Le Nganga
IMPRISONED

Police arrested Ngamba, a journalist working for the private, satirical weekly Le Nganga, after summoning him in connection with an article published in the newspaper's most recent issue. On March 9, the joint prosecutor of the Republic ordered that Ngamba be transferred to the Central Prison in the capital, Libreville. The prosecutor referred to Ngamba's imprisonment as an "emergency measure," local sources reported.

According to Le Nganga Publication Director Loïc Bithegue, Ngamba was accused of defamation, "telephone harassment," and "attempting to extort money." The charges stemmed from an article published two weeks prior alleging that Dr. Alfonse Louma, president of a local nongovernmental organization that focuses on health education, and a close friend of the doctor's were having affairs with a woman named Arlette Okenkali. After the article was published, Okenkali brought the charges against Ngamba.

Ngamba's trial began on March 12, and on March 19 the journalist was acquitted of all charges. Ngamba was freed the same day.

NOVEMBER 12, 2004
Posted: January 18, 2005

Radio-Télévision Nazareth
CENSORED

The National Communications Council (CNC), a government-controlled media regulatory body, suspended the private broadcaster Radio-Télévision Nazareth (RTN), citing licensing criteria. The Libreville-based network had been operating for more than a year, according to local sources. Local journalists said the suspension stemmed from RTN's television news reports, which often focused on the poor quality of life for many local residents.

The suspension order followed a meeting between representatives of the media, the CNC and the government, at which Prime Minister Jean-François Ntoutoume Emane accused RTN of violating journalistic ethics by broadcasting graphic images of car accidents, and accused local private media of being irresponsible. RTN had also broadcast extensive footage of a June 2004 plane crash off the coast of Gabon in which 19 people died. Its broadcasts of the aftermath of the crash provoked condemnation from government authorities, according to local sources.

On December 2, the CNC lifted the suspension order against RTN, after the station agreed to reorganize its programs to conform to professional ethics and "the social mores of the country," according to the state-owned daily L'Union.


DECEMBER 3, 2004
Posted: January 18, 2005

Gabon Show
CENSORED

The National Communications Council (CNC), a government-controlled media regulatory body, banned the private satirical newspaper Gabon Show because of alleged "ongoing legal wrangles that threaten the existence of this paper." According to local sources, the CNC accused Gabon Show of being linked to La Sagaie, a private newspaper shuttered by the CNC in September 2003 for allegedly inciting tribal hatred and "attacking the freedom and dignity of the institutions of the Gabonese republic."

According to sources at the paper, the ban stemmed from the paper's political commentary, which was often critical of the government. Agence France-Presse reported that the CNC's ban was enacted after Gabon Show criticized the arrest of Noel Ngwa Nguema, a religious figure and prominent government critic. Nguema, who is also the former director of the banned independent newspaper Misamu, was detained for one day in November and later charged with illegal arms possession. Several local publications expressed the opinion that the charges were trumped up, according to local sources.


DECEMBER 17, 2004
January 18, 2005

Le Temps
CENSORED

The National Communications Council (CNC), a government-controlled media regulatory body, suspended the private weekly Le Temps for one month, accusing the paper of failing to print its registration number on its masthead. Local journalists told CPJ that the accusation appeared to be baseless; each edition of Le Temps clearly displayed the number.

Local journalists said they believe the suspension is part of a general pattern of CNC harassment of the small private press in Gabon. Following the suspension, the local press association APPEL held a press conference at which its members accused the CNC of abusing its power and attempting to stifle independent journalism.