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Gabon24 September 2003

Two recently-launched independent newspapers prevented from publishing

Reporters Without Borders has voiced its concern about the deteriorating situation in Gabon, where the authorities continue to obstruct the publication of independent newspapers. The satirical bi-monthly Sub-Version was recently seized and four employees from the paper were detained at Libreville airport. The National Communications Council (Conseil national de la communication, CNC) also recently suspended a second paper, the bi-monthly La Sagaie.

"We condemn these measures, which hinder the development of privately-owned media in Gabon. Suspending a media outlet is a very serious penalty. We can only conclude that the authorities use this means of punishment to deprive citizens of access to independent or critical news sources," said Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard. In a letter to CNC Chairperson Pierre Marie Ndong, the organisation urged the council to reconsider its decisions and allow the media outlets to resume their activities.

Border police at Libreville International Airport seized all copies of Sub-Version’s third issue on 17 September 2003. The paper is printed in Cameroon. Four staff members who had come to pick up the copies of their paper were also detained and questioned. They were released later in the afternoon. The authorities accuse the bi-monthly of inciting an "insurrection" among citizens and attempting to "destabilise republican institutions."

In addition, the bi-monthly La Sagaie learned of its suspension in a letter on 23 September. The paper was banned indefinitely and accused of making a "call to tribalism" and "threatening state security."

Reporters Without Borders recalls that the privately-owned newspaper Misamu remains closed more than five months after the CNC decided to supended the publication indefinitely on 13 May. Moreover, Noël Ngwa Nguema, a priest who is the founder and editor-in-chief of Misamu and Sub-Version, faces constant pressure and intimidation tactics.

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