Gabon election: “For the authorities there is ‘good media’ and ‘bad media’”

One of our Gabonese Observers voices his concerns over the restrictions placed on journalists covering the presidential election.

The presidential election in Gabon takes place on Sunday. In the past few days, the government has taken some worrying steps concerning media coverage of the vote. Press freedom activists Reporters Without Borders have already predicted that the event is "likely to be heavily restricted"...

Have you witnessed a violation of press freedom in Gabon? Post your comment here.

Norbert Ngoua Mezui is secretary general of the Gabonese Media Observatory, a recently created media self-regulation association. He's also editor of fortnightly paper Nku'u Le messager. He spent three weeks in prison in 2006 for alleged defamation of the country's finance minister.

Journalists from two foreign media outlets, l'Express and FRANCE 24, were refused visas to follow the elections, while other journalists have been put up in grand hotels in the capital and can talk to whatever important person they want to. It's inconceivable. For the authorities, it seems that there is ‘good media' and ‘bad media'.

The decision that shocked me most was to ban journalists from entering polling stations. According to what the Interior Minister said on Thursday, following a decision by the council of ministers, journalists can only enter a polling station if they're following a candidate. And then they must leave. That was not the case in previous elections. So nobody will be monitoring the vote counting - which is supposed to be a public event according to Gabonese law. Nothing is there to prevent ballot fiddling. And then...

The press is relatively free in Gabon. It's not Ethiopia or Eritrea! We can talk about almost any subject - the poor quality of roads, corruption etc. We can criticise the government and its decisions. But there are limits. For example, the fortnightly Tango paper has been banned from publishing since August because the communication minister didn't appreciate their article on the election. However, only the national communication council has the legal right to disallow a publication from going to press. There are also taboo subjects, particularly those which directly affect the Bongo clan. If you directly attack the late president or his friends, you risk intimidation from the intelligence services, or a court case for defamation. We're in a transitional period and we don't know how things are going to turn out. But we've already seen a case of intimidation back in April when presidential candidate Bruno Ben Moubamba came back to the country and tried to launch an anti-corruption campaign. A number of journalists, me included, were called up by the intelligence services. And nobody published anything."

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Comments

GABON

I think that Gabon and its press freedoms needs to be improved drastically....

Gabon Election

I am proud Eritrean whom I proudly would like to respond to your critc about Eritrea.
First of all you have never been to Eritrea and you have one sided negative qonatation that does not have any reality to the true story of Eritrea and Eritreans when you said "....... or Eritrea! We can talk about almost any subject.." I do not care how you are dealt by your leaders and how your leaders respond when it comes to undermine your country and the follow citizens. But in Eritrea it is not that only we talk but we seat together dine together walk together and work together to alivate the standard of living of the newly nation that is not waiting any assistance from any country. We believe in self reliance there for we do not give a damn for what others say? If you do understand we do our business the way we all Eritreans wanted it to be and we do not worry about what others say.
I wish you one day either study about this great nation Eritrea or visit personally to wittness what Eritrea is and what Eritreans are. In conlusion I am trying to tell you is Eritreans are free to talk with every one including the president whom I call by his first name and without sir, excelency and any of that to discuss about my country, my people, my vilage, and even my personal issue. It is not a big deal to talk but is a big deal for us Eritreans to work and achieve what you wanted to achieve.

Reply to Ibrahim

Well, why do you think thousands of Eritreans are drowning in the Mediteranian fleeing from your savage rulers? Would anyone risk traveling though the Sahara on foot and to drown in the sea had it not been for the nightmarish realities in Eritrea? You're right, Eritrea is a hell of a country with a totalitarian dictator who recently escaped assasination attempt. Let's see how long your paradise 'hell on earth' will last in the same course: without a constitution, freedom of expression, freedom of worship- without any freedom whatsoever.

Gabon, France,

Gabon, France, Reporters-Without-Borders... are these three entities related? You bet they are. It is because Eritrea would not bend to your masters and their likes, Mr Eyu, that it is facing their manipulations. But Eritreans are masters of their own destiny and would not expect any orders from Paris or where ever your handlers are to practice "democracy". Get on with your sham "democratic" elections and leave Eritrea alone.

Best Wishes to Gabon

KiwoghiH Eyu in Tigrigna means "Morning will Come". Morning will come for the Eritrean people sooner or later.
Best wishes to Gabon in her progress towards democracy!

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