Gabon has temporarily banned the activities of up to 20 non-governmental organisations for their alleged interference in politics. Interior Minister Andre Mba Obame said the ban would be lifted as soon as each NGO clearly defined its mission and structure with his ministry.

Environmental groups in Gabon demanded on Thursday the government reveal the terms of a $3 billion iron ore mining deal with China, saying they feared the huge project could damage an area of virgin forest. The project, awarded to state-owned China National Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Corp., is for the construction of an big iron ore mine in the Belinga mountains of Gabon's remote northeast Ogooue-Ivindo province. The Chinese group expects to complete the mine in three years.

The director of a private newspaper in Libreville, the capital of Gabon, was handed a suspended prison term and a fine today, but could not appear in court after he was hospitalized as the result of poor detention conditions, local journalists told CPJ. "We condemn this verdict and call on Gabonese President Omar Bongo to deliver on his 2004 pledge to eliminate prison sentences for press offences," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

Only a few years ago, oil-rich Gabon had to ask the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help to reform its economy, which had accumulated an unsustainable level of foreign debts. Today, a recovered Gabonese economy enabled authorities to negotiate an early repayment of its US$ 2.3 billion debt burden.

An editorial critical of Gabonese President Omar Bongo, Africa's longest-serving head of state, has led authorities in the capital, Libreville, to arrest a publisher and suspend his newspaper, according to news reports and local journalists. Guy-Christian Mavioga, director of the private periodical L'Espoir, has been in police custody since Thursday on accusations of offending the head of state in connection with a June 14 editorial headlined "The last days of Bongo," local journalists told CPJ.