Located in Central Africa, Gabon borders the Atlantic Ocean at the Equator, between Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea. El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba – one of the longest-serving heads of state in the world – dominated the country’s political scene for four decades (1967-2009) following independence from France in 1960. President Bongo introduced a nominal multiparty system and a new constitution in the early 1990s. Following President Bongo’s death in 2009, a new election brought Ali Bongo Ondimba, son of the former president, to power.
Government critics have pointed to the wealth gap between the urban elite and the rural poor. Thanks to its oil exports and a small population, it enjoys more wealth per head of population than many of its neighbours. However, most of its people live in poverty. Despite constrained political conditions, a small population, abundant natural resources, it has largely taken considerable foreign support to make Gabon one of the most stable African countries.
President: Ali Bongo Ondimba (Since 2009): Gabon was ruled by just two presidents between 1960 and 2009. The current president succeeded his father.
Official Language: French
Population: 1.688 million (2014)
National Anthem: La Concorde
Media & Freedom of Expression Landscape
The constitution of Gabon provides for both freedom of expression and press freedom, but this is not observed in practice. Starting in 1998 the government began to limit freedom of expression in the private media more rigorously. According to Freedom House, the 2001 media law currently in effect does not meet international standards for freedom of expression. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual report for 2001, since 1998, Conseil National de la Communication (CNC), media regulatory body has relied on licensing regulations to trim the number of private radio stations. While the CNC is supposed to be an independent entity, its representatives are appointed by the president and it is therefore subject to government interference. There are still a few apolitical private and community radio stations in Gabon, and opposition newspapers appear regularly. But local journalists say self-censorship is more pervasive than ever.”
Newspapers are almost entirely politicized. The one daily paper that exists in the country and is distributed on a national basis is government affiliated. Private weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly papers number about ten to twelve. Opposition parties produce most of the country’s newspapers.
In October 2012, five private newspapers—Ezombolo, La Griffe, La Voix du Peuple, Le Scribouillard, and La Une—received suspensions of between two and three months for lack of professional ethics and repeated calls for ethnic division and insurrection.
In contrast with 2013, there were no reports of journalists subjected to arrest, imprisonment, physical attack, harassment, or intimidation during the year.