Reporters Without Borders today voiced astonishment at a three-months suspended prison sentence handed down yesterday for libel to a journalist on the daily L'Union, Jonas Moulenda.
The Libreville correctional court also fined him 500,000 FCFA (760 euros) while the editor and publisher, Albert Yangari, who had been summoned in the same case, was acquitted. The two had been accused by the former director-general of the Gabon Shippers’ Council (CGC) of publishing a libellous article about him.
“I had confidence in the Gabonese justice system. During the hearing, the opposing side did not succeed in proving defamation. The prosecutor’s office did not uphold any charges against us. I was convinced the case would be dismissed. I am very disappointed at the court decision”, Moulenda told Reporters Without Borders.
“I have been sentenced without grounds. I know I am a journalist who upsets people. I have already received several death threats which I have reported to the Gabonese authorities, who have remained silent. I am in danger”, said the journalist who added that he would lodge an appeal.
“We hope that at his appeal hearing Jonas Moulenda will be discharged as was the publisher of L'Union", Reporters Without Borders said.
25.03.2010 - Newspaper editor and reporter summoned three times over libel suit
Reporters Without Borders is baffled by the fact that Albert Yangari, the publisher and editor of the newspaper L’Union, and Jonas Moulenda, one of his reporters, have been summoned three times in connection with a libel suit brought by Alfred Nguia Banda, the former director-general of the Gabonese Shippers Council (CGC), which oversees maritime traffic in Gabon.
Banda’s suit was prompted by an article by Moulenda in L’Union’s weekend edition on 28 November about the murder of Banda’s successor as CGC director-general, René Ziza, who had been stabbed to death on a street in the Libreville district of Saint-Benoît three days earlier. The article suggested that the police should consider the hypothesis that Ziza’s death was linked to an audit he ordered.
“At no point was the plaintiff’s name mentioned in the article and the reporter just suggested a hypothesis,” Reporters Without Borders said. “There are absolutely no grounds for claiming that the article was libellous and we urge the judicial authorities to show some insight.”
The press freedom organisation added: “The authorities should moreover provide Moulenda with protection and conduct a serious investigation into the alarming threats he has been getting, which he reported to the police.”
Moulenda has voiced his “astonishment and concern” at the failure of the authorities to say anything or take any action in response to his complaint.
Yangari and Moulenda have been summoned to three hearings. At the first, on 22 February, the lawsuit was dismissed. At the second, on 15 March, the plaintiff did not show up. The third hearing has been set for 29 March.