PPF condemns suspension of French TV channel and local newspaper by Gabon regulator

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), in a letter to Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon has expressed concern over the one-year ban on local broadcasts of France 2, and on shutting down Gabonese tri-weekly newspaper Echos du Nord for a month.

PPF Secretary General Owais Aslam Ali has condemned these steps by the country’s media regulator, saying it was an unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression. PPF also urged the government of Gabon to look into this matter and immediately lift the ban on both.

According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), Gabon’s High Authority for Communication (HAC), has banned both media outlets for criticizing President Ali Bongo and his partners. This step by HAC indicates that the media watchdog is more concerned about defending the government interest than about protecting media freedom.

On August 22, the HAC said that it was suspending transmission of France 2 on all satellite TV stations available in Gabon for 12 months for broadcasting an incendiary documentary that could disturb public order.

Earlier, on August 16, the Independence Day of Gabon, the channel aired a documentary in its current affairs slot entitled “The Bongo clan, a French story”. The 52-minute documentary indicted the Bongo family of getting rich off income from French oil companies, Elf Aquitaine and Total.

Echos du Nord was suspended because it failed to respond to a summons regarding the purchase of a luxury car by the vice president of the country.

Gabon’s HAC had already suspended five media organizations since its establishment. On July 23, a local TV channel Média+ was also shut down for not opening its doors to HAC officers.

A newspaper La Loupe was also suspended on August 9 for remarks about government allies that were considered contrary to journalistic ethics.