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Gabon's National Communications Council has suspended at least six
publications for what it says are ethical violations of journalism.
Press freedom groups in West Africa and the United States have
condemned the Gabon council's actions.
Less than three months
after the election of president Ali Bongo, the government-controlled
media-monitoring body in Gabon has suspended six private newspapers.
The International Federation of Journalists' office in Dakar has condemned the government's actions.
program officer for the group, Libasse Hane, says a Gabonese
journalist, who also works for a publication that supports an
opposition leader, told him the National Communications Council says
the six suspended papers were inciting tribalism. The state said the
papers violated "the ethics of journalism."
Hane says its difficult to judge whether the publications were inciting tribalism.
Hane adds parts of the population are against the suspension.
Every suspended publication has written articles that criticized the recent electoral process in Gabon.
September, Ali Bongo was elected president after the death of his
father, President Omar Bongo who ruled Gabon for 41 years. Opposition
leaders have disputed the election results, but a court declared the
victory of the younger Bongo.
The New York based non-profit
group the Committee to Protect Journalists, has also condemned the West
African government's actions. The group says it learned the
suspensions will last from one to three months.
to Protect Journalists said that one affected call-in television show
on station Canal Espoir, allowed callers to openly criticize
individuals on the air.
After Ali Bongo was announced the victor
in presidential elections in September, there were riots in some parts
of the country, including the oil hub, Port Gentil. Gabon is Africa's
sixth-largest exporter of oil, but despite a per-capita gross domestic
product of $14,000, the United Nations estimates that 70 percent of the
country's people live below the poverty line.
Before his death
this year, Omar Bongo's French bank accounts were frozen as part of an
investigation into African leaders embezzling public funds. The
anti-corruption group Transparency International says more than 30
Bongo family properties in France, worth nearly $200 million, could not
have been purchased on his state salary alone.
The Bongo family
denies any wrongdoing. A French judge threw out the case last month
saying Transparency International does not have the legal standing to
take civil action.