In January 2001 President Bongo granted the private-sector press 250 million CFA francs (approximately 380,000 euros) to "help its development", but certain newspapers have complained about not receiving any of that aid. The president furthermore decided that an additional 500 million CFA francs (about 750,000 euros) would be given to the private press every year.
The government publicly criticised the press several times during the year. On 6 April the prime minister, Jean-François Ntoutoume Emane, accused "a certain African press" of wanting to destabilise Gabon, saying that there was "a will to sew suspicion in the minds of our people". In May the government described the behaviour of the national press as "irresponsible" as regards its "treatment of information". The pro-government daily L’Union replied that it regretted this "will of the government to want to gag the national press by all possible means". The independent weekly Misamu qualified these statements as "stalling tactics intended to gag press freedom".
The weekly La Griffe, censored several times in the past few years, reappeared during the summer under the title Le Gri-Gri International. Based in France, where the managing editor is in exile, the journal expanded its coverage to become a pan-African satirical magazine. It still devotes a large number of its article to Gabonese politics.
Pressure and obstruction
The National Communication Council (CNC), decided on 15 February to suspend La Griffe and its supplement Le Gri-Gri. The regulatory body also temporarily banned Michel Ongoundou, managing editor, and Raphaël Ntoutoume, editor-in-chief, from practising journalism. According to the CNC, the satirical weekly published articles "bordering on provocation against the state president". It was the third time in two and a half years that La Griffe had been suspended. In a letter to Reporters Without Borders, the communication minister affirmed that he would do "everything in [his] power to enable the incriminated newspaper to appear again, in the obvious interests of promoting democracy in Gabon".
On 18 October Mr. Barre, manager of Sogapress, a local distribution company, said he no longer wanted to receive Le Gri-Gri International. Yet only one week earlier Sogapress had ordered additional copies owing to the newspaper’s success in Gabon. In fact Mr. Barre had been summoned by the national chief of police, Jean-Claude Labouda, on 15 October and ordered to stop distributing Le Gri-Gri International.
Mr. Labouda invoked instructions from the interior ministry. Agents from the criminal investigation department, without warrants, had seized the last copies of the newspaper on news stands on 12 October.
The managing editor of the pro-governmental newspaper L’Union, Germain Ngoyo Moussavou, was dismissed in mid-November by presidential decree. The journalist was accused of publishing virulent criticism of the interior minister, Antoine Mboumbou Miyakou.
Police confiscated the camera of Antoine Lawson, local correspondent for the British news agency Reuters, on 23 December and destroyed his film. The journalist was taking pictures of policemen busy evacuating a bar. All points of sale of alcohol were supposed to be closed on 23 December, the date of the second round in the legislative elections.