Gabon opposition newspaper says officials detain 20 of its staff

by Reuters
Thursday, 3 November 2016 17:10 GMT

LIBREVILLE, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Gabonese officials detained 20 employees at the headquarters of the Echos du Nord opposition newspaper on Thursday and took them away for questioning, staff at the paper told Reuters.

OPEC member Gabon has faced international scrutiny, including from former colonial power France, since President Ali Bongo was declared winner of a disputed Aug. 27 election.

Echos du Nord's Editor-in-Chief Desire Ename said that officials from Gabon's DGDI, a government department that according to its website "acts preventively against any threat interior or exterior" had taken the action.

"The employees were verbally threatened and seized and we now have no means of communicating with them," he told Reuters by telephone from Paris, where he said he had moved in 2014 for safety reasons.

Ename's paper is regularly critical of Bongo, whose family has ruled the Central African country for nearly 50 years.

Marky Edzang, a journalist at the paper who arrived at the scene several minutes after the event, said armed men had taken all of the staff present away in military vans.

Government spokesman Alain Claude Bilie By Nze, who could not immediately be reached for comment, told local journalists that nine people had been detained for questioning as part of an investigation. This followed an article referring to an "imminent military coup d'etat", he added.

Several protesters contesting the August poll result were killed by security forces during a rare outbreak of violence which also saw Gabon's parliament set alight.

Since then, a doctor who helped treat and catalogue the injuries of protesters after the election was also arrested for several days in October. (Reporting by Gerauds Wilfried Obangome and Emma Farge; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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