On Monday, a criminal court in the capital, Libreville, convicted Jonas Moulenda, a reporter with the state-owned daily L’Union, on charges of criminal defamation and gave him a suspended three-month prison sentence and a fine of 500,000 CFA francs (US$900), according to news reports and local journalists. Moulenda’s lawyer, Lubin Ntoutoume, told CPJ that both the defense and the public prosecutor have appealed the ruling, adding that the public prosecutor had also requested Moulenda’s acquittal during this trial due to lack of evidence. The case has been dismissed by two judges on separate occasions since last year because of procedural irregularities, he said. Ntoutoume said he believes the two lawyers’ pleas were ignored because of political interference.
The charges relate to a November 2009 article in which
Moulenda raised questions about the unsolved murder
of René Ziza, who was credited with fighting
corruption while in charge of
“The entire case against Jonas
Moulenda is preposterous,” said CPJ Africa Program
Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “Even the prosecution tried to drop it. Yet the
court has persisted in pursuing our colleague for raising serious questions
about corruption in
Moulenda carried out an exclusive investigative report in September 2009 in the oil hub city of Port-Gentil—which had been devastated by deadly violence following Gabon’s disputed presidential polls—and has faced harassment ever since. After L’Union published interviews of residents suggesting more people had been killed than reported by the government, security agents briefly detained the paper’s editor, Albert Yangari, and raided Moulenda’s home. He went into temporary hiding after reporting telephone death threats with chilling references to slain editor Norbert Zongo.