LIBREVILLE. – Gabon’s official media watchdog on Friday said it had suspended a newspaper for three months for an article saying the country was on “autopilot” after the hospitalisation of President Ali Bongo in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.
Lack of official news – along with memories of the secrecy-shrouded demise of Bongo’s father, Omar Bongo, who died in office in 2009 after decades at the helm – has set the rumour mill churning at full tilt with suggestions that he is incapacitated or even dead.
L’Aube (Dawn) newspaper on Monday ran a story headlined “Gabon on (very dangerous) autopilot” and suggested that Prime Minister Lucie Mboussou be appointed an interim president.
The spokeswoman of the High Authority of Communications watchdog said it was not up to the media or anybody else to provide “dangerous” interpretations of the law.
“Law is a science and the technical interpretation of legal texts” was a specialised task, Lucie Akalane said.
The paper’s editor, Orca Boudiandza Mouelle, was also banned for six months.
At the end of October, the HAC took Cameroonian television channel Vision 4 off the air for announcing that 59-year-old Bongo was dead.
President Bongo’s spokesman Ike Ngouoni said doctors had diagnosed him with “severe fatigue” and ordered bed rest.
Bongo is however still officially expected in Paris on Sunday for a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.
Meanwhile, senior figures in Gabon’s ruling party on Thursday called on the government to clarify the condition of President Bongo, whose hospitalisation in Saudi Arabia has fuelled speculation that he is incapacitated.
The consultative committee of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) said clarity was necessary to “reassure the public” at a time “of wild rumours in the media and on social networks.”
While insisting that “vacation of power is not on the agenda”, the committee warned lack of information could “promote hatred, division and a deteriorating political climate.”
Bongo (59), fell ill on October 24 during a visit to Riyadh to attend an economic forum. – AFP