Media regulator turned executioner
The disturbing erosion of press freedom, seen above all since a new media regulator, the High Authority for Communication (HAC) began operating in 2018, has continued and is posing a major danger to journalism in Gabon. Reporting critical of the president or his close associates is liable to result in suspensions with the sole aim of protecting the regime’s interests. The HAC has gone so far as to suspend a newspaper just for criticizing the arbitrary nature of its systematic sanctions. Far from encouraging the emergence of a responsible quality press, this policy helps to throttle the independent press and encourage self-censorship on sensitive subjects.
Dubbed “The Axe” by some media outlets, the HAC is imposing all these sanctions at a time of economic precarity for the media. Critical newspapers, radio stations and TV channels are losing both advertisers and state subsidies. A culture of media freedom and independence is struggling to take hold even online, and Gabon has joined the long list of countries that have disconnected the Internet during a coup attempt. The 2016 “communication code” decriminalized media offences but otherwise restricts the freedoms of not only the print media but also all other forms of broadcast, print, digital and cinematographical production.
115 in 2019
35.60 in 2019