German television crew detained, footage destroyed by Equatorial Guinea authorities | Freedom House

German television crew detained, footage destroyed by Equatorial Guinea authorities

On June 11, 2011, three employees from German television station ZDF were briefly detained and had their video footage destroyed in Equatorial Guinea. The crew was filming a concert at a French cultural center in Malabo as part of a larger effort to capture via film the general state of affairs in Equatorial Guinea. They were taken to TVGE studios where security agents led by the director of the state-controlled TV station, Teobaldo Nchaso Matomba, ordered them to hand over all video footage. The three German journalists were held for five hours while Matomba confiscated their memory cards and ordered the deletion of footage critical of Equatorial Guinea—which included an interview with an Equatorial Guinean opposition leader.

Since 2009, Equatorial Guinean president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has kept close watch over the country’s media. Equatorial Guinea is considered one of the world’s worst human rights abusers, and while freedom of expression and freedom of press might be legally guaranteed, in actuality both are ignored. Criticism of the president, officials and security forces is prohibited, and most local coverage is government controlled, and most reporters closely watched. In June 2009, a local correspondent for Radio France Internationale and Agence France-Presse (AFP) was arrested after writing articles alleging that the director of a private corporation embezzled money and left the country—and ended up spending four months in prison.  Journalists from state media have been reprimanded, even fired if they refuse to praise the authorities. In 2009, journalists from Spanish media organizations were denied when attempting to cover the presidential election. Other international reporters have also run into roadblocks when attempting to obtain accreditation.

Freedom House condemns the unfair detention of these journalists, as well as the seizure of their equipment. These actions underscore the grave threats to press freedom that have contributed to Equatorial Guinea’s ranking as one of the world’s worst human rights abusers.

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