There is virtually no diversity in the news media. The independent and opposition newspapers have an extremely limited readership, while the government keeps its monopoly of the broadcast media.
Africa’s only Spanish-speaking country is also one of those that most curtail free expression. After eliminating the opposition in a parody of trial in May 2002, the government tightened its grip on the news media. The independent press has virtually ceased to exist. One or two newspapers produce a few hundred copies on very irregular basis. Only two privately-owned newspapers managed to bring out an issue in the first quarter of 2003.
The mass media, radio and television, are held by the government. Their journalists have no freedom at all and just relay official propaganda. In a weekly programme about matters of national interest in July, the state radio said President Teodoro Obiang Nguema was "the god of Equatorial Guinea" and could "decide to kill without having to give anyone an account and without going to hell." The radio also issued a warning to "those who want to disturb the peace, calm and order."
The UN special rapporteur for freedom of opinion and expression, Ambeyi Ligabo, voiced concern in February about the obstacles to press freedom in the country’s legislation, including the requirement for newspapers to submit a copy of each issue to the authorities before publication and the need for prior permission in order to launch a new newspaper. He also condemned the confiscation of various newspaper issues that had taken place on several occasions.
A journalist imprisoned
Rodrigo Angue Nguema, the Agence France-Presse correspondent in Malabo, was arrested at his home on the public prosecutor’s orders on 3 November 2003 and was interrogated about the coup rumours he had mentioned in a dispatch on 29 October. As he was the only reporter to have mentioned any coup rumours, the police insisted that he must know something that interested them. He was released eight days later subject to remaining available to the police.
Harassment and obstruction
Information minister Agustin Nzé Nfumu on 18 February 2003 asked Federico Abaga Ondó, the director of the state radio and television broadcaster RTVGE, to eliminate the programme "Cosas que ocurren" after it reported that four cannibalistic sorcerers had been found in Anizok, a town in the interior of the mainland. AFP correspondent Rodrigo Angue Nguema, who had also mentioned this in a dispatch, was interrogated by the information ministry.
Manuel Nzé Nzogo Angué, a former government protocol director and the owner of the independent weekly La Opinión, was summoned by the president at the end of May for publishing a comment by President Omar Bongo of Gabon claiming that the Equatorial Guinean island of Mbaña in fact belonged to Gabon. La Opinión had also published a worldwide ranking of dictators in which President Obiang Nguema was in fourth place.