Boussaga, editor-in-chief of the private publication L’Autre Journal, died on December 15 in a hospital in the capital, Libreville. His family brought him to the hospital when he became ill after spending an evening with friends in a Libreville suburb.
The reasons for Boussaga’s death were unclear; the journalist’s family did not allow an autopsy. The death occurred amid a crackdown on private publications by the government-controlled National Council on Communications (CNC), and some local sources believed Boussaga may have been poisoned.
Boussaga died only days after police seized the entire print run of L’Autre Journal‘s second issue at the Libreville airport on December 12. The issue had been printed in neighboring Cameroon because Multipresse, the state-run printing company that had printed the first edition, had refused to print the second, according to local journalists. On December 23, journalists at the newspaper received a letter from the CNC ordering the paper’s indefinite suspension and accusing it of publishing articles that might “disturb public order.”
Some local sources said the closure may have been linked to the paper’s purported owner, Zacharie Myboto, a former cabinet member who is now a government critic and potential presidential candidate.
CPJ and Reporters without Borders called for an independent inquiry into the death, but one was never publicly carried out. The December 30 issue of the government-owned daily L’Union carried a statement from the Gabonese cabinet denouncing CPJ’s letter and accusing CPJ of “hidden political goals.” The death and the newspaper’s suspension were unrelated, the statement said.
In January 2004, UNESCO director Koïchiro Matsuura expressed concern over Boussaga and several other journalists killed worldwide in 2003, calling the reasons for Boussaga’s death “unclear.”
On January 6, 2004, the private news Web site LeGabonais.com reported that rumors surrounding Boussaga’s death “continue to feed the insecurity felt by journalists at this time.”
“Investigation has become difficult, interviewees have become suspicious, legislation has become restrictive, the CNC is hyper-sensitive, and the risk of trial [on press offenses] high,” the Web site said.