Government bans two publications in one day

New York, October 10, 2007—Gabon’s governmental media regulatory body suspended two private newspapers Monday. The National Communication Council blocked the Paris-based, pan-African bimonthly Le Gri-Gri from printing and distributing in Gabon, on the grounds that the newspaper has not registered with the authorities as a Gabonese publication. La Nation, a bimonthly as well, has been suspended for one month as a result of a complaint that was filed by the minister of arts and culture, Blandine Marundu ma Mihindou, according the publisher.

“The National Communication Council should work with the Gabonese media, not against it,” said executive director of CPJ, Joel Simon. “Overbearing regulations are not in the interest of the free-flow of information. CPJ calls on the council to lift these arbitrary suspensions immediately.”

The last issue of Le Gri-Gri was printed and distributed in Libreville, Gabon, instead of Paris to reduce shipping costs, said the managing director of Le Gri-Gri. The printing firm Voix du Peuple and distributors Songapresse were ordered to stop their services to Le Gri-Gri until the newspaper has “regularized” with the Gabonese authorities, local journalists reported.

The paper’s managing director, Michel Ongoundou Loundah, said the suspension is politically motivated, and plans to write a letter of complaint to the council. On September 25, Voix du Peuple refused to print the September 27 issue over an article critical of a government mining contract with a Chinese firm. The front-page article warned of potential environmental damages caused by allowing the firm to mine iron in Belinga, a northeast province of Ougooué-Ivindo.

In the same statement Monday, the council announced its suspension of the private bimonthly La Nation for one month based on a complaint filed by the minister of arts and culture, Blandine Marundu. In the late August issue, La Nation published an article headlined “Does Blandine Marundu Deserve To Be a Minister?” that questioned his qualifications. The council said the paper’s publisher, Blaise Mengue, failed to provide sufficient evidence of allegations against the minister, Mengue said. Another article published in mid-September blamed Marundu for not addressing the issue of unpaid royalties for writers in Gabon, local journalists said.