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Reporters sans frontières (RSF) has expressed concern about the recent measures taken by the National Communications Council (Conseil national de la Communication, CNC) against four private media outlets. During the week of 16 May 2003, the CNC decided to suspend the publication of two private newspapers, "Misamu" and "Le Temps". In addition, the publications "Jeunesse Action" and "l'Espoir" received official warnings from the council.

IFEX - News from the international freedom of expression community
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ALERT - GABON

22 May 2003

National Communications Council suspends two private newspapers

SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is concerned about the recent measures taken by the
National Communications Council (Conseil national de la Communication, CNC)
against four private media outlets. During the week of 16 May 2003, the CNC
decided to suspend the publication of two private newspapers, "Misamu" and
"Le Temps". In addition, the publications "Jeunesse Action" and "l'Espoir"
received official warnings from the council.

"These measures, which appear to be part of an intimidation campaign against
the private press, are a means of preventing citizens from having access to
unbiased news and information about the government's various plans," RSF
Secretary-General Robert Ménard said in a letter to CNC President Pierre
Marie Ndong. The organisation urged him to reverse the measures and to allow
the targeted media outlets to continue publishing.

In a 12 May press release, the CNC ordered the twice-monthly "Misamu" to
cease publishing, on account of a legal dispute over ownership of the
newspaper. The legal battle pits Senator Jean-Pierre Nzoghe Nguema, former
leader of the opposition party Morena and the paper's founder, against Noél
Ngwa Nguema, the paper's current publisher, who is also a priest.

According to information collected by RSF, "Misamu" plans to continue
publishing for the moment, as it has not received an official suspension
notice. The CNC's decision follows revelations in the press about the
mysterious death of Pascaline Bongo's aide-de-camp. Pascaline Bongo is
President Omar Bongo's eldest daughter and principal private secretary.
"Misamu" had accused Finance Ministry Secretary-General Eyamba Tsima Maurice
Nestor of being behind the aide-de-camp's death.

On 15 May, the CNC suspended the weekly "Le Temps" for three months. The
newspaper was targeted because of a 14 May article, entitled "Over 50
billion CFA Francs [over US$89 million; 76 million euros] squandered in two
nights", in which questions were raised about financing for an organisation
that is coordinating independence celebrations in August. The contentious
article was "likely to undermine the nation's standing," the CNC said.

In addition, two other newspapers received official warnings from the
council. The first paper, "Jeunesse Action", was warned after it published
photographs of mutilated persons and children being raped in its 12 to 19
May issue. The CNC said the images were likely to "offend readers'
sensibilities." As for "l'Espoir", it was warned because it did not fill out
the paperwork necessary for the launch of a publication, as required under
under Gabon's Communications Code.

RSF recalls that Communications Minister Medhi Teale recently granted 500
million CFA Francs (approx. US$890,000; 762,000 euros) to the private press
as part of the National Press Development Fund (Fonds national pour le
développement de la presse).

For further information, contact Jean-François Julliard at RSF, rue Geoffroy
Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 84, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51,
e-mail: [email protected], Internet: http://www.rsf.org

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of RSF.
In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit RSF.
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