/ 16 September 2005

Gabon media bosses warned over double jobs

Gabon’s National Communication Council (CNC) has warned the bosses of 22 private newspapers and radio stations to stop doubling up jobs incompatible with their public duties, a CNC statement said.

The CNC on Thursday quoted the code that regulates the media in the oil-rich Central African nation, whereby people with government, civil service, judicial or military office ”cannot be owners or beneficiaries of audiovisual firms”.

CNC press officer Nestor Ella said the named chairpersons or publishing editors of six private radio stations and 16 newspapers ”are all in the civil service. That’s not right.”

Those Ella identified include ministerial advisers and even an adviser to CNC president Pierre Marie Dong.

The CNC order will not take immediate effect, but Ella said that ”from December 31, those who haven’t sorted out their situation will receive a final warning before their media outlets are shut down.”

Much of a lively private press in Gabon, though circulation is limited, is considered to be the mouthpiece of various officials in the regime, particularly government ministers, who use it to their own political ends.

The CNC is appointed by President Omar Bongo and the speakers of the two Houses of Parliament. It has shut down a number of papers since 2003, and several private newspaper groups earlier this year accused it of actions leading to the muzzling of the press and democratic debate in Gabon, which has been ruled by Bongo since 1967. — Sapa-AFP