Gabon newspaper raided, deputy editor alleges torture

On November 3, 2016, officers from Gabon’s domestic intelligence agency, the Directorate of Documentation and Immigration (DGDI, by its French acronym), armed with semi-automatic weapons, raided the office of the weekly newspaper Echos du Nord in the capital, Libreville, and arrested nine journalists and four other staff members, according to press reports.

Raissa Oyasseko, the deputy editor of the weekly Echos du Nord, was arrested from home the following day, media reports said. Charles Henry Gey, Oyasseko’s lawyer, told Radio France Internationale that officers told him he was not authorized to see her.

Alain-Claude bilie-By-Nze, Gabon’s communications minister, said the nine journalists were questioned as part of an investigation into a story the paper published on November 2 suggesting the head of the DGDI had been arrested on allegations of fraud and of planning a military coup, according to news reports.

Thirteen of the 14 arrested journalists and support staff were released on November 4, while Oyasseko was released on November 5, according to media reports.

Oyasseko told Agence France-Presse that interrogators tied her to a metal rod and beat her on her feet, thighs, and buttocks for an hour to coerce her to give them the password for her email account or to tell them who wrote the November 2 story and the journalist’s source.

The raid on Echos du Nord came amid a worsening climate for the press in Gabon following tensions around President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s disputed August 27 re-election.

On July 23, security forces attacked and destroyed the equipment of journalists covering an opposition political rally, according to media reports.

On August 31, the government shut down the internet for days as opposition protesters battled security forces in the street, according to news reports. Unidentified assailants attacked Radio Télévision Nazareth, Télé Plus, and the National Union newspaper, according to news reports.

In September, Gabonese authorities denied entry visas to foreign journalists seeking to cover the post-election crisis. In October, the government announced that any foreign journalist must obtain prior permission from the communications minister himself before entering the country to report, according to news reports.