News and information was tightly controlled in Equatorial Guinea, which CPJ identified as one of the world’s most censored nations. Nearly all news media were owned and run by the government or its allies. One independently owned newspaper circulated in the country, but it had to practice self-censorship; no independent broadcasters operated domestically. Even in this rigid environment, authorities fearful of the implications of Arab unrest censored news coverage of the protests. President Teodoro Obiang continued efforts to alter his international image, assuming presidency of the African Union and reviving his effort to establish an “Obiang Prize” in life sciences under the auspices of UNESCO. For the second time, UNESCO suspended consideration of the prize after a global campaign by human rights and freedom of expression groups. As he marked his 32 years in power, Obiang declared there were “no” human rights violations in his country. But his administration suspended a state radio presenter for a mere reference to a “leader of the Libyan revolution.” Authorities also urged the owners of television sets in public places not to show international satellite channels covering the Arab unrest, according to local journalists. Security agents detained a German TV crew and deleted footage of an interview with an opposition leader and pictures of children playing in slums.
The government banned news of Arab unrest on tightly monitored national airwaves and on television sets in public places, according to local journalists. CPJ has ranked Equatorial Guinea as the fourth most censored nation in the world.
CPJ documented at least 10 cases in which authorities arrested, censored, or obstructed journalists. Officials were particularly sensitive to coverage of poverty, obstructing at least three journalists who tried to document the issue.
Breakdown of attacks in 2011:
4: Cases of censorship
1: Case of obstruction
1: Case of retaliatory harassment
The government paid three Washington-based public relations firms a total of US$1,192,329.50 between April and October 2010 to produce positive news about Equatorial Guinea, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
All television and radio were directly run by the government or controlled through its allies, CPJ research shows.
A dearth of independent news sources:
1: Independent newspaper
0: Independent television
0: Independent radio
1: Correspondent for international media
Drawing on his considerable wealth, Obiang tried to establish a self-named prize in life sciences under the auspices of UNESCO. The international agency postponed consideration of the proposal after human rights groups said Obiang’s poor record contradicted UNESCO’s values.
A prize not to be:
2008: Obiang offered UNESCO US$3 million for a self-named International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences.
May 2010: Thirty freedom of expression organizations expressed opposition. A month later, laureates of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize joined in opposition.
October 2010: UNESCO indefinitely suspended the prize pending “consultations among all parties.”
July 2011: At a summit in Equatorial Guinea, African Union heads of state passed a resolution urging UNESCO to reverse its decision.
September 2011: Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast requested that UNESCO’s executive board adopt the prize immediately.
October 2011: UNESCO deferred action on the prize, and set up a working group to continue consultations.