In Gabon, it is not easy to discuss Ali Bongo's state of health at the risk of arousing the ire of the High Authority of Communication (HAC). Even the international media are concerned. Thursday, August 22, the media regulatory authority (HAC) has suspended for two months the accreditation of the correspondent of Radio France Internationale (RFI), Yves-Laurent Goma, deeming "false" a report published Saturday, August 17 on the site Internet of the French radio which put in question, according to her, "the physical integrity" of the head of the Gabonese State.
In his report on Libreville's Independence Day ceremony on August 17, Yves-Laurent Goma writes: "The President of the Republic did not at any time rise as before to greet the troops of the 'army". The HAC immediately denounced "inaccurate information with malicious insinuation (...)." The president, "in accordance with the directives of the State protocol, rose whenever necessary," the text of the decision.
On the videos of the military parade, we see the Gabonese president greet the crowd from a military vehicle. He then stops to listen to the national anthem but does not review the troops. The day before, international media cameras had filmed him at a commemorative ceremony in Libreville, walking on a red carpet with a cane and dragging his right foot.
Ali Bongo made his first public appearance since his stroke in October 2018 in Ryad, Saudi Arabia, where he was to participate in an economic forum on investment.
Freedom of information
In a statement on its website, the management of RFI, "committed to freedom of information," strongly regretted the decision on his correspondent and wished he found "as soon as possible his work authorization so he continues to cover Gabonese news, as it has been doing continuously for 17 years ".
Yves-Laurent Goma worked in good faith. @RFI is committed to freedom of information and wants his correspondent to find his work permit as soon as possible. https://t.co/c77meoHJLnCécile Mégie (@CecileMegie) August 23, 2019
RFI is not the only media to have been censored in Gabon. HAC also suspended for three months one of the country's leading private online news sites, Gabon Review, accusing it of undermining the institution's image "by malicious insinuations" in a published article. early August.
"Media that dares to criticize the president or his relatives face sanctions almost systematic," said the organization for the defense of press freedom Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in late June.
For the past ten months, the state of health of Ali Bongo, 60, reelected in August 2016 following a controversial election, is hotly contested. Last fall, while he was recuperating in Morocco at the invitation of King Mohammed VI, the opposition had demanded that a vacancy of power be recognized. Shortly after, in January, the Gabonese president had failed to be overthrown after a coup attempt by dozens of soldiers of the Republican Guard, and quickly thwarted by the security forces.
Back in Libreville in February, videos of him filmed by relatives at the presidential palace did not reassure public opinion. The debate on his ability to assume the presidential functions was therefore relaunched in March 2019 by the collective "Call to Action", which brings together leaders of the opposition and civil society.
The group filed a petition to the court asking for medical expertise on the state of health of the Gabonese president. The petition was dismissed at first instance in May, and the court held that only the Constitutional Court seized by the government, or both houses of Parliament, can find that the president can not govern. But the petition was eventually found admissible by the Libreville Court of Appeal, which has to rule on the merits of the petition on August 26th.
Except that a few days ago, the magistrate who was responsible for it was suspended from her duties until September 30 for "breach of the conveniences of her state of magistrate, honor, delicacy or dignity ". The Ministry of the Interior and justice criticizes Paulette Ayo Akolly for having ignored the injunction of the Court of Cassation asking him, August 12, to get out of the case the time that the Court cassation judge whether the Court of Appeal was competent or not in the matter.
To read also: Putsch missed in Gabon: "The contested election of Ali Bongo in 2016 left traces"
"We are shocked by this decision of the Ministry of Interior and Justice, but not surprised," said Jean Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi, member of the citizen collective Call to act on France 24. Paulette Ayo Akolly "did not order a medical expertise, she simply said that we were right to ask the question. Even that can not be accepted. "
For Angel Kevin Nizgou, a member of the collective "Call to Action" at the origin of the request, "the goal of Ali Bongo is to prevent this hearing at all costs" on the medical expertise. August was not canceled, although the name of Paulette Ayo Akolly's replacement was not announced.