AUGUST 9, 2005
Updated: September 7, 2005 Nku'u Le Messager
Gabon's media regulatory council suspended the independent bimonthly newspaper Nku'u Le Messager over an editorial it said insulted the council, according to local news reports and the publication director. In a statement, the council said the suspension would be lifted only if the newspaper changed its editorial team.
The decision followed an August 8 editorial by publication director Norbert Ngoua Mezui, criticizing the council's composition and saying that members were overpaid and lazy. The editorial called council members "bad film actors," "uninspired sports writers," and "a few journalists of generally little talent." Council President Pierre Marie Dong is a filmmaker, according to the PANA news agency.
Mezui said the editorial came in response to a July 28 statement by the council, a nine-member, government-controlled body known by its French acronym CNC. He said the CNC statement "arbitrarily classified the Gabonese newspapers into two categories, partisan ones and non-partisan ones." Nku'u Le Messager was wrongly put in the partisan category, Mezui said.
The CNC justified its decision against Nku'u Le Messager by saying that certain journalists had become "mercenaries of the pen," "racketeers" and "gossips," according to PANA. According to local sources, the paper bowed to the CNC's instruction and reshuffled its editorial team, with Mezui becoming the "founding publisher," while the former editor-in-chief, Patrice Babeya N'Gogo, replaced Mezui as publication director. On August 31, Nku'u Le Messager reappeared on newsstands, local sources told CPJ.
Since 2003, the CNC has issued at least eight suspensions against newspapers that were critical of authorities, according to CPJ research. Some remain closed.