Dakar, August 28, 2023—Gabonese authorities must reverse their suspension of French broadcasters France 24, Radio France Internationale, and TV5 Monde and refrain from further disrupting public access to the internet, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
Amid elections on Saturday, August 26, Gabonese authorities implemented a curfew and blocked internet access to prevent the spread of “calls for violence” and “false information,” and suspended on-air broadcasts of three French state-owned broadcasters.
The High Authority of Communication, Gabon’s media regulator, accused the broadcasters of “a lack of objectivity and balance in the treatment of information in connection with the current general elections,” according to reports by the broadcasters, which described the suspension as “temporary” but did not indicate when it would be lifted.
As of Monday evening, the broadcasters’ reporting remains inaccessible in Gabon, according to a person in Gabon who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns.
“Gabonese authorities must lift the suspensions of France 24, Radio France Internationale, and TV5 Monde and ensure people throughout the country can freely access the internet,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator in Durban, South Africa. “Local and international media, as well as internet access, play a fundamental role in election transparency, and the public must be able to receive and share the information they need to make informed decisions.”
CPJ reached HAC member Max Olivier Obame by phone, but he declined to comment. CPJ’s calls to Gabonese Communications Minister Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou rang unanswered.
Before the election, CPJ joined the #KeepItOn coalition in urging President Ali Bongo Ondimba and his administration to guarantee open and secure internet access during the election and raised concerns about foreign media access to cover the elections.
The results of Gabon’s election could extend the reign of the Bongo family, which has been in power for 55 years between the incumbent president and his late father, Omar Bongo.