Gabon | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Gabon

Gabon

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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

66

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

21

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

21

Press freedom is guaranteed but often restricted in practice. The state is authorized to criminalize civil libel suits, and the country's media code outlines the responsibilities as well as the rights of journalists. A national commission on press professionalism was created that has wide powers to decide who qualifies for accreditation as a professional journalist. A separate government agency charged with upholding journalistic standards, the National Communications Council (CNC), has a history of using intimidation tactics against the independent press. In past years, the CNC frequently ordered the suspension or closure of offending publications. Although there were no reports of publications being shuttered throughout 2004, several newspapers that were suspended in 2003 remained closed and were unable to resume publishing.

With presidential polls approaching in 2005, the country's independent media have complained of a renewed crackdown by authorities, a pattern seen in past electoral cycles. In March, a journalist with the privately owned newspaper Le Nganga was held briefly in a Libreville prison after being charged with libeling the head of a local nongovernmental organization in an article he wrote for the paper. The journalist was acquitted of all charges a week later and released from jail. Regional press freedom watchdog Journaliste en danger reported that in June the news director at a public broadcaster based in the capital was suspended at the request of the minister of communications. Many journalists practice some self-censorship.

A government daily and at least 10 private weeklies, which are controlled primarily by opposition parties, are published. Almost all Gabonese private newspapers are printed in Cameroon because of the high costs at the only local printing company, and publications printed outside the country are subjected to review before distribution. At least six private radio and television broadcasters have been licensed and operate, but their viability is tenuous and most of the programming is nonpolitical. The government does not restrict access to or use of the Internet, and foreign publications and broadcasts are widely available.