Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – The New York-based press freedom watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Monday condemned Gabon's state-run media regulator for suspending two private newspapers, ''Ezombolo'' and ''La Une''.
According to CPJ, the two private papers have been slammed six month suspension over criticism of Gabon's top government officials.
The country's National Communications Council accused the two papers of disrespecting public institutions "and the personalities that embody them".
However, the press freedom watchdog disagrees with the council's stand and sees it as unjustifiable.
"The suspensions of Ezombolo and La Une are acts of censorship and intimidation designed to silence criticism of public officials," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator, Mohamed Keita.
He said: "Gabon's National Communications Council should reverse this decision and end the perception that it is the censorship arm of the government."
CPJ further stated that under Gabonese constitution, the president and the speakers of both chambers of the national assembly each appoint three members of the nine-member council for a term of five years.
It added that in May, Guy-Bertrand Mapangou, a former presidential spokesman and adviser, was appointed council chair
The council accused Ezombolo of "threatening public order" with the paper's two columns published Friday.
They were said to be opinion pieces, urging troops not to obey orders to shoot protesters and another calling opposition leader Andre Mba Obame the legitimate head of state.
Obame proclaimed himself president-elect and staged a swearing-in ceremony after rejecting the results of the 2009 elections officially won by his rival, President Ali Bongo.
It was further said that the council also cited a July 16 Ezombolo column criticizing Bongo and Prime Minister Raymond Ndong Sima.
The second newspaper, La Une, was said to have been suspended over a series of columns critical of Bongo's diplomacy in a failed attempt to secure the re-election of his brother-in-law Jean Ping as the African Union Commission Chairman.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 7Aug2012