Freedom of the Press 2015 - Gabon

2015 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score

(0 = best, 100 = worst)

Political Environment

(0 = best, 40 = worst)

Economic Environment

(0 = best, 30 = worst)

Legal Environment

Gabon’s constitution guarantees both freedom of expression and freedom of the press, but these rights are restricted in practice. The 2001 media law currently in effect does not meet international standards for freedom of expression. Libel and defamation can be treated as a criminal offense, though there were no reports of criminal cases in 2014. Gabon has no freedom of information law.

The nine members of Gabon’s media regulatory body, the National Communications Council (CNC), are appointed by the president and the heads of the two legislative chambers, who are members of President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG). In March 2014, Bongo appointed former interior minister Jean François Ndongou as the new CNC president. While independent in theory, the CNC is subject to political interference by the ruling party and the ministry of communications, to which it reports. In May 2014, the council issued warnings to several opposition-oriented newspapers for publishing graphic images of violence and discussing politicians’ nationalities. The following month it imposed a six-month suspension on Le Verbe de Ngomo for an article claiming that the president was not a natural-born Gabonese citizen.


Political Environment

Most media outlets are affiliated with the government, the PDG, or opposition parties, leading to politically biased reporting. The media carry some criticism of the government and ruling party, but self-censorship is widespread, especially regarding the president. In September 2014, two opposition weeklies, La Loupe and L’Aube, temporarily suspended publication after claiming that the government had replaced their latest issues on newsstands with fake versions carrying progovernment content. A presidential spokesperson denied the charge.

Journalists occasionally face physical attacks and harassment in the course of their work, though no incidents were reported in 2014.


Economic Environment

There are two daily newspapers: L’Union, a former government-owned daily that has been privately held since 2000 but is still closely affiliated with the ruling party, and the government-owned Gabon Matin, which ceased publishing in September 2014 due to a lack of state funding. The country’s roughly 30 private weeklies and monthlies publish sporadically due to financial constraints, a lack of advertising, and government-ordered suspensions. The ownership of private media is opaque, though it is usually tied to an individual or family in the political elite, either from the PDG or an opposition party.

There are more than 40 private and community radio stations and some two dozen television stations. The government owns two television stations and three radio stations. Foreign publications are readily available. Satellite television is also available to those who can afford it, and foreign radio broadcasts are widely accessible.

Less than 10 percent of the population accessed the internet in 2014. In February, Gabon signed an agreement with the World Bank to help fund the extension of the African Coast Europe (ACE) fiber-optic cable across the country. Gabon Telecom, whose majority owner is Morocco’s Maroc Telecom, began offering 4G mobile service in October.