THE Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the suspension of six private newspapers by the government-controlled media-monitoring body, the National Communications Council, in Gabon, according to a media release.
The council announced the suspensions, which range from one to three months, on Tuesday evening on state-run TV. The papers have been suspended for ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œviolating the ethics of journalismÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â and ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œinciting ethnic divisionsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â according to local reports.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThis unprecedented suspension of the private press is intended to silence any potential critics of the election process,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe council should immediately lift all of the suspensions.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Early in September, Ali Bongo was elected president of the oil-rich country in an election to replace his father Omar Bongo, who had died in June after ruling the country for 41 years. All the suspended publications had written articles critical of what may have been a flawed election process, local journalists told CPJ.
The papers received immediate suspension sentences. NkuÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢u Le Messager and Le Crocodile were suspended for one month, Le Scriboullard, LÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢Ombre, and La Nation for two months and Echos du Nord received a three-month suspension. Two other private publications, Le Temps and Gabon DÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢abord received a warning to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œmaintain professional standards,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â according to local journalists.
According to Norbert Ngoua, the president of the Gabonese private press association, APPEL, and director of the twice-weekly newspaper NkuÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢u Le Messager, the council did not provide any details about the newspapersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ specific press violations. The journalists are not legally allowed to appeal the suspensions, Ngoua said.
In addition, the council suspended indefinitely a popular call-in chat show called ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œEntre NousÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â on the private TV station Canal Espoir for ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œnumerous deficiencies in moderating the program,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â a statement said. According to local journalists, the council was unhappy with the way the moderator allowed the public to be openly critical of individuals on the air.