Thursday, 27 January 2011

World Heroes

Marc Ona Essangui | Environmentalist 
from Gabon
Gabon – Media stigmatisation campaign against human rights defender Marc Ona Essangui

Posted on 2010/12/15
Please take action on behalf of Gabonese human rights defender Marc Ona Essangui. Copy the enclosed letter and send it to the address provided. Thank you for taking action on behalf of human rights defender Marc Ona Essangui.


Target adresses:  

Mr Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba
Office of the President,
BP 546 Libreville Gabon
Your Excellency,

During the last several weeks, human rights defender Mr Marc Ona Essangui has been the target of a smear campaign organised by pro government media in Gabon. The campaign targets him specifically,  because of his support of the trial taking place in France, in relation to properties allegedly unlawfully acquired there by the Gabonese President, the so called "Bien Mal Acquis"(BMA) trial.
Marc Ona Essangui is the national coordinator of the Publish What You Pay Coalition (PWYP) in Gabon and Executive Secretary of the environmental organisation Brainforest. In January 2009, Front Line published an urgent appeal on the arrest and detention, in December 2008, of Marc Ona Essangui and four other human rights defenders and journalists, who were linked to the same affaire. Since the French Court of Cassation's decision on the BMA trial was rendered, on 9 November 2010, several media in Gabon began a stigmatisation campaign aimed at discrediting Marc Ona Essangui. Mr Gregory Ngbwa Minsta, a civil servant and plaintiff in the BMA trial, who was amongst the individuals arrested in December 2008, has also been targeted. The media outlets behind the campaign include the first channel of the "Radio Télévision Gabonaise"(RTG1), the TV programme "Pluriel", the newspaper "L'ombre"and the daily "Gabon Matin". The latter devoted six pages to the BMA trial in its issue no. 468 of 8 December.
In the article, similarly to the other media, Marc Ona Essangui was portrayed as an agent mandated to destabilise the country and working for a group of foreign organisations that would include the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), Global Witness, PWYP, Revenue Watch Institute, Open Society, Transparency International, Survie, and Sherpa. During the same period, the weekly TV programme "Pluriel" reportedly portrayed Marc Ona Essangui as manipulated by Sherpa, Survie and Transparency International, accomplices of the massacres and secret wars of the big powers in Africa, and which award prizes to compatriots, possibly in reference to the Goldman Prize awarded to Marc Ona Essangui in 2008 and the Transparency International Integrity Prize 2009-2010 awarded to Gregory Ngbwa Minsta. Furthermore, RTG1 reportedly broadcasted this information over several days including most recently on 9 and 12 December, a press conference organised in December 2008 by the then Minister of the Interior was created merely to justify the arrest and detention of Marc Ona Essangui. In particular, the Minister stated that he had evidence that Marc Ona Essangui and the other individuals arrested were supported financially by French NGOs to destabilise the country. He further stated that they were leading a vast conspiracy that had planned to incite the Gabonese people to rise up and to recruit Gabonese from the nine provinces, South Africa, France and Canada. Since his arrest in December 2008, Marc Ona Essangui remains on bail. The investigation against him has neither progressed nor has it be closed.

FrontLine and I, express our concerns over these media smear campaigns. According to Marc Ona Essangui himself, the campaign resembles in all its elements the campaign that followed the BMA complaint and that supported public opinion to the [2008] arrests.
I urge the authorities in Gabon to:
1. Formally drop the charges against Marc Ona Essangui and the other human rights defenders and journalists arrested in December 2008;

2. Take measures to encourage public recognition of the legitimate role of human rights defenders;

3. Ensure that all human rights defenders in Gabon, carrying out their legitimate work in the defence of human rights and are able to operate free of restrictions and reprisals, including judicial scrutiny. 
Yours sincerely,

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