A new report has revealed the extent of repression of media and human rights in the central African nation of Equatorial Guinea – often described as one of the world’s most censored countries.Entitled “When Silence Does Not Mean Consent: The Dire State of Human Rights in Equatorial Guinea”, the report was released on June by local human rights group, EG Justice, and global civil society alliance, CIVICUS. It describes how the media is controlled by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema – Africa’s longest-serving head of state and the world’s longest-serving non-royal leader – and his family.
There are very few independent media agencies operating in the country. Journalists, including those working for state-owned media, are often targeted for criticism of the President or his family. The government strictly controls information broadcast by media and has banned the publication of images of protests in other countries. The government controls the citizens’ ability to access information by imposing restrictions on the internet and websites that are sometimes critical of the authorities.
“The government of Equatorial Guinea has militarised the state and uses the media as a tool to spread its propaganda, while preventing those with different views from expressing themselves,” Said Tutu Alicante, Director of EG Justice.
“Because no one holds the government and its agents accountable, levels of impunity are high, and the cycle of human rights abuses continues,” said Alicante.
President Nguema and his ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) use elections to legitimise their stay in power. Polls are organised regularly but often in highly restrictive conditions and are often characterised by high levels of repression targeting political opposition members and political activists. It is common for leaders of political parties to be arrested just before a vote or banned from contesting it.
While the constitution allows for freedom of association and assembly, legislation severely constrain the registration process for civil society organisations (CSOs) and the government refuses to recognise trade unions. CSOs are sometimes suspended and their members and leaders arbitrarily arrested, physically assaulted and subjected to judicial persecution.
“For the past four decades, human rights have been suppressed by the PDGE government. It is time for the international community to focus on the state of human rights in Equatorial Guinea and hold its leaders accountable,” Said David Kode, CIVICUS’ Advocacy and Campaigns Lead.
Protests organised by supporters of the ruling party are generally allowed while those staged by civil society or professional bodies are violently repressed or prevented. Because of restrictions on human rights defenders and journalists, many prefer to self-censor while others have fled into exile.
CIVICUS and EG Justice have called on the government to create an enabling environment for citizens to participate in political processes without fear of intimidation and reprisals