14 June 2005


Police seize 200 copies of opposition newspaper

Incident details



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(RSF/IFEX) - The authorities do not allow any space for independent news media, RSF said, following the 9 June 2005 seizure of 200 copies "La Verdad", a small political party newspaper and the country's sole opposition publication.

"It is not just this case, it is the overall situation for independent news media that is absolutely scandalous," the organisation said. "Under the rule of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a notorious press freedom predator, the slightest indication of opposition results in confiscation, arrest or imprisonment."

"Equatorial Guinea is often referred to as Africa's Kuwait because of its oil deposits, but it is one of the continent's forbidden zones for free expression and a permanent hell for journalists," RSF added.

The copies of "La Verdad", which were destined for distribution on the mainland, were seized by airport police on 9 June in Bata, the second largest city in the country.

Published periodically by the Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), "La Verdad" is the only opposition news media. The government controls all mass media, including radio and television stations. Journalists working for the state media have absolutely no freedom and simply relay official propaganda.

In a weekly programme about matters of national interest in July 2003, for example, the state radio station said President Obiang was "the god of Equatorial Guinea" and could "decide to kill without having to render account to anyone and without going to hell."

The day before "La Verdad"'s seizure, airport police confiscated documents in the possession of CPDS leader Placido Miko as he returned to the capital, Malabo, from a trip abroad. The police told him they were acting on orders from a superior.

On 11 April, Pablo Gracia Sáez, the editor of the Spanish-language service of the pan-African news agency afrol News, received a threatening phone call from presidential spokesman Miguel Oyono. Oyono accused the Norway-based news agency of "waging a campaign against Equatorial Guinea" and warned Gracia of the "consequences" of what he reported. "We are keeping an eye on you," he added.

In July 2004, the government announced its intention to bring civil and criminal cases against the international press for its "tendentious comments" about Obiang's relations with the US bank Riggs. The Spanish-language press was particularly targeted after it published a US Senate sub-committee report accusing Riggs of turning a blind eye to corruption in its handling of more than 60 bank accounts for the Obiang administration.

On 9 March 2004, Rodrigo Angue Nguema, the Malabo correspondent of Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Radio France Internationale (RFI), was forcefully pushed by the president's press director and barred from a presidential press conference which only the state media was allowed to attend (see IFEX alert of 9 March 2004).

A few months before that incident, on 3 November 2003, Angue Nguema was arrested at his home on the orders of the public prosecutor and interrogated about a coup rumour he had mentioned in a dispatch five days earlier. As he was the only journalist to have referred to the rumour, the police argued that he must have information of interest to the authorities. He was held for eight days (see alerts of 13 and 5 November 2003).


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