New York, March 8, 2012–A vote by a commission of UNESCO’s executive board to rename the discredited Obiang prize is a blow to the credibility of the organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Meeting in Paris, the commission voted to change the name of the prize to “International UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea Prize” and for UNESCO to move ahead with the implementation.
“The purpose of this prize is to whitewash the image of one of Africa’s most repressive leaders, and no one is fooled by the name change,” CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said. “The 33 states who voted in favor have chosen to promote the image of Obiang rather than uphold basic standards of human rights. They should be ashamed.”
CPJ has consistently voiced its opposition to the prize, saying that Equatorial Guinea’s record on human rights, including press freedom, makes it incompatible with UNESCO’s mission. UNESCO’s legal adviser has concluded that the prize is “no longer implementable” due to a “material discrepancy” between its stated and actual funding source.