Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Press freedom is constitutionally guaranteed, but the government restricts this right in practice. The 1992 press law authorizes government censorship of all publications. All journalists are required to register with the government-controlled local press association, and there are strict accreditation procedures for foreign correspondents. The local journalists association has been subjected to repeated harassment and closure. In March, a local correspondent for Agence France-Presse and Radio France Internationale (RFI) was prevented from attending a press conference at the presidential palace, as were other independent journalists.
Mild criticism of infrastructure and public institutions is allowed, but nothing disparaging about the president or security forces is tolerated. Publications that irk the government are banned from the newsstands without explanation. Any scrutiny of the disposition of the country's oil wealth is especially frowned upon. In May, the members of a television news crew from Australia that had come with 10-day visas to report on the booming oil industry were threatened with arrest by a government minister unless they left the country. They were then subjected to a lengthy search at the airport, reportedly in the presence of the director of national security and the president's brother. Another foreign writer was deported in October. The country's sports reporters have also alleged persecution at the hands of various state authorities.
There is virtually no diversity in the news media, as nearly all print and broadcast media are state run and tightly controlled. The government or the president's family own the only domestic radio and television outlets, and applications to start other private stations are routinely denied. A few small privately owned and opposition newspapers publish occasionally, but they exercise self-censorship and have very limited readership. Foreign publications have become more widely available in recent years. The shortwave programs of RFI and Radio Exterior (the international shortwave service from Spain) can be heard. Journalists, political leaders, and association heads have complained of mounting difficulties in accessing the Internet. They said illegal wiretapping has increased and that the country's sole Internet service provider allegedly monitors e-mail traffic closely.