A defaced billboard of President Ali Bongo Ondimba is seen on an empty street in Libreville, Gabon, on August 30, 2023. CPJ called on the Gabonese military to ensure press freedom and journalists' safety following a coup that removed Bongo from power. (AP/Yves Laurent)

CPJ calls on military in Gabon to ensure press freedom and journalists’ safety following coup

Dakar, August 30, 2023—Following the military coup in Gabon that removed President Ali Bongo from power on Wednesday, August 30, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“The new military authorities in Gabon must prioritize journalists’ ability to report on matters of public interest and avoid replicating the constraints and intimidation faced by reporters in other countries across the region following coups,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in Durban, South Africa. “We welcome the restoration of internet access and call on authorities to ensure the safety of local and international journalists. Unhindered access to information is particularly needed at this moment of political tension.”

CPJ has documented press freedom concerns following coups across Africa in recent years, including in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Tunisia, Sudan, and Egypt.

On Wednesday, Gabonese military officers announced the dissolution of “all the institutions of the republic,” placed Bongo under house arrest, and established the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, headed by Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, commander-in-chief of the republican guard.

The military also annulled the results of the August 26 election; results showed Bongo won with 64% of the vote, which would have extended the Bongo family’s 55-year reign in Gabon.

Military authorities restored public internet access and broadcast signals for French broadcasters Radio France Internationale, France 24, and TV5 Monde after they were suspended on August 26, according to a local journalist who spoke to CPJ in the condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns, and a Wednesday statement made by the military.