Gabon suspends opposition media

2012-01-04 21:32

Libreville - Gabon authorities have slapped a temporary ban on two opposition media outlets after they covered an address to the nation by opposition leader Andre Mba Obame, who declared himself president last year.

The National Communication Council has withdrawn the broadcast licence from Mba Obame's private television station TV+ for three months and banned Echoes of the North newspaper for two months, according to a statement in the press on Wednesday.

They are accused of action "likely to undermine public order" after they covered a ceremony where Mba Obame issued New Year "greetings to the nation" and reiterated his claim to be president of the oil-rich west African country, the council said.

"You clearly and freely chose me to lead our country... the liberation of our country is near," said Mba Obame, who claims that President Ali Bongo's 2009 poll victory was an "electoral coup".

He charged that private media in Gabon were being "sabotaged to prevent the truth being known".

Mba Obame's National Union party was dissolved by the authorities in January 2011 after he declared himself president.

The communication council said that Mba Obame's ceremony giving greetings to the people of Gabon was a "republican act which can only be conducted by... the head of state".

TV+ said its programmes were sabotaged during last month's legislative polls that were won by the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party which backs Bongo Ondimba after a boycott by many opposition parties.

But the constitutional court said on Monday it has received dozens of demands from both the opposition and the ruling party for the annulment of the results of the December 17 vote, amid claims by some of massive fraud.

In his own New Year's greetings on Wednesday, Bongo called for the regulatory body to take tougher action against what he described as "numerous errors by certain media outlets" while insisting he was committed to freedom of speech.