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Newspaper editor and reporter summoned three times over libel suit

(RSF/IFEX) - 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 2009 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 was set for 29 March.

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