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Equatorial Guinea23 January 2009

Despotic regime’s absurd methods decried after four journalists fired for “lack of enthusiasm”

Reporters Without Borders is dismayed by deputy information minister Purita Opo Barila’s arbitrary decision, announced on 19 January, to dismiss four journalists from state radio and TV broadcaster RTVGE for “insubordination” and “lack of enthusiasm.”

“Equatorial Guinea is one of those African countries about which nothing or almost nothing is known because the authorities do everything possible to hide the sad reality,” Reporters Without Borders said. “President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has for years acted as a despot while his government, which despises the population, has suppressed all attempts at independent expression without any reaction from the international community.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The RTVGE incident is indicative of the absurdity of a regime in which the news media are subject to absolute control by the information ministry.”

The four fired journalists were technicians David Ndong, Miguel Eson Ona and Cirilo Nsue, and cameraman Casiano Ndong. Opo Barila, the deputy minister of information, tourism and culture, gave no explanation for their dismissals, aside from citing insubordination and lack of enthusiasm.

Reporters Without Borders has learned from local sources that the four journalists were punished for failing to praise the regime’s “merits.” RTVGE director-general Virgilio Seriché Riloha declined to comment on the dismissals.

There is virtually no privately-owned press in Equatorial Guinea while state media journalists are obliged to relay government propaganda. They are regarded as state employees who can be fired on the spot without warning or explanation. The country has no journalists’ union or other organisation that defends journalists. The role of media regulation is performed by the information ministry, whose staff are all members of the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE).

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