Journalist detained for four days despite press offences being decriminalised

Expression

On 30th December 2019, gendarmes arrested the editor of the satirical bi-monthly newspaper Le Diagnostic, Bertin Ngoua Edou in Libreville. His arrest relates to the publication of an article in the newspaper on 27th December 2019, alleging a corruption case implicating the president of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, René Ndemezo’o Obiang and the former chief of staff of president Bongo, Brice Laccruche Alihanga, who was arrested earlier in December on accusations of misusing public funds. Ngoua Edou told press freedom organisation Reporters without Borders (RSF) that he was accused of defamation and spreading false news. Arnaud Froger of RSF commented:

“This journalist’s arrest and detention are illegal because press offences are not punishable by imprisonment under the Communication Code. If someone thinks an article has defamed them, they have legal recourse, including the media regulator. There is no need to arrest journalists and keep them in detention.”

The journalist was released on 3rd January 2020 after four days in detention after having been presented before the general prosecutor.