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Gabon security forces raid newspapers’ offices, arrest journalists

Security forces in the Central African nation of Gabon this week raided the headquarters of media group Nord Editions, and arrested 20 people, including journalists, tea makers and office administrators, local media reports said.

The media group owns Echos du Nord and Faits Divers, two newspapers based in the raided building.

“They were bundled into strange cars and taken to an undisclosed location,” an unidentified journalist was quoted by Gabon Review as saying.

“One journalist managed to escape, and no reason was given by security forces as to why they were being arrested, Faits Divers editorial director Jonas Moulenda said.

Both publications are said to be close to the opposition, and Echos du Nord has several times referred defeated presidential candidate Jean Ping as ‘elected president’.

It is not the first time that the media group has been ‘unfairly’ targeted by security forces. In December 2014, Echos du Nord newspaper journalist and publisher Désiré Ename fled to France, after he and a colleague were arrested and taken into custody ‘for no apparent reason’.

The raid could be the result of Echos du Nord publishing an article earlier on Tuesday, Ename said, describing the operation as ‘regrettable’.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) confirmed the raid last night in a post on Facebook, but said it was still gathering more information on the matter.

Tensions have been rising in Gabon since Ali Bongo, the incumbent president, was re-elected in a highly contested election the European Union and opposition politicians said was plagued by huge irregularities.

The government has since embarked on a relentless media crackdown, which saw a couple of journalists fleeing the oil-rich country to seek asylum abroad.

The government has also tightened visa conditions for foreign reporters, saying that they needed to get a written and signed authorisation from the minister of communication before applying for a visa.

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