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Gabonese regulator suspends TV station for refusing HAC inspection

A man watches a televised political debate in Port-Gentil, Gabon, 22 August 2016
A man watches a televised political debate in Port-Gentil, Gabon, 22 August 2016

SAMIR TOUNSI/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 31 July 2018.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Gabon's High Authority for Communication (HAC) to allow Media+ TV to resume broadcasting and condemns the disproportionate nature of the decision to suspend the TV channel for a month for refusing to receive a HAC visit.

One of Gabon's most popular TV channels and based in Port-Gentil, its economic capital, Media+ has been unable to broadcast since 23 July, when the HAC, Gabon's media regulator, issued its one-month suspension order.

The Gabonese media quoted the HAC has saying it ordered the suspension because of "a violation of provisions" and "the lack of respect" shown by the TV channel, which refused to receive the HAC delegation that visited Port-Gentil on 20 and 21 July.

Raphaël Ntoutoume Nkoghe, a former media advisor to President Ali Bongo who now heads the HAC, told RSF that the HAC "has the power to visit any media outlet whatsoever in order to inspect its installations" and that the attitude of those in charge at Media+ therefore constituted an obstacle to the regulator's work.

Média+ CEO Abou Becker Ndiaye declined to comment, saying he did not "want to get into a dispute." The TV channel has appealed against the decision to the HAC, which is to examine the appeal shortly.

"Created just a few months ago, the HAC has sent a disturbing signal to the Gabonese media by imposing this disproportionate sanction on a media outlet that refused to open its doors to a HAC visit," said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF's Africa desk. "We call on the HAC to allow for discussion and negotiation, so that this TV channel can reopen as soon as possible."

Created by government order on 23 February, the HAC replaced the National Council for Communication (CNC). Unlike the CNC, for which there was constitutional provision, the HAC is a supposedly independent government offshoot with nine members, of whom three are appointed by Gabon's president, two by the senate speaker, two by the national assembly speaker and two by the media profession.

Gabon is ranked 108th out of 180 countries for the second year running in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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