Gabon | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Status change explanation: Gabon's status changed from Partly Free to Not Free due to the continued crackdown on the private press and the government's persistent habit of de-licensing private news organizations, as well as an overall countrywide worsening of the free speech environment.

The state-owned L'Union is Gabon's leading opinion maker and its only daily newspaper, thanks in large part to a clampdown on the private press orchestrated by the government in clear violation of the constitution, which provides for freedom of the press. Strict licensing requirements and the state's entrenched practice of revoking licenses of news outlets critical of the government continue to inhibit the work of independent journalists. While the government owns and tightly controls the editorial content of two radio stations with countrywide range, the seven privately owned radio stations still allowed to operate remain strictly apolitical. Four private television stations daily transmit eight hours of non-controversial programming, and the state's own two television operations also refrain from criticizing government and ruling party officials. In July, lawmakers scrapped presidential term limits through a constitutional amendment, leaving Omar Bongo, who has been in power since 1968, free to seek reelection for the remainder of his life. While L'Union and other pro-government news outlets glossed over the amendment, the beleaguered private press pondered its own and the political opposition's chances of survival in starkly pessimistic terms. Anxious to pacify a resentful private press in the weeks leading to the vote in parliament, the authorities offered financial aid to all news outlets, regardless of editorial stance. The largesse, however, failed to impress independent journalists, most of whom opposed the constitutional amendment. The Conseil National de la Communication (CNC), a government body charged with promoting good journalistic ethics, also failed to allay the media's anxieties. In fact, the CNC this year suspended two private publications, Le Temps and L'Autre Journal, and banned two others, La Sagaie and Sub-Version, for "attacking the dignity of the institutions of the Republic."