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)
Freedom of expression and of the press are legally guaranteed, but these rights are severely restricted in practice. The 1992 Press Law gives the government unusually extensive authority to restrict press activities through official prepublication censorship. All domestic journalists are required to register with the Ministry of Information, and equally strict accreditation procedures are in place for foreign correspondents. In 2006, the Committee to Protect Journalists listed Equatorial Guinea as one of the world’s most censored countries, noting that almost all local coverage is orchestrated or tightly controlled by the government.
Local journalists, including the few who work for foreign news outlets, were subject to systematic harassment and surveillance. However, in 2006 there were no reported cases of physical abuse or deportation. Mild criticism of infrastructure and public institutions is allowed, but nothing disparaging about the president or security forces is tolerated. In the past, foreign journalists have been monitored closely and occasionally deported if their coverage is deemed to be sensitive.
Equatorial Guinea is one of the few African countries to have virtually no independent media. Given the high level of poverty and illiteracy throughout the country, the most influential form of media is radio, but all domestic radio and television stations are owned directly by the government or by the president’s family. State-owned media are dominated by sycophantic coverage of the government and the president. Applications to open private radio stations have been pending for several years but have thus far not been approved. One opposition newspaper continued to appear occasionally throughout the year but practiced self-censorship because of government intimidation. A dozen other private newspapers are licensed to publish but function primarily as opposition mouthpieces and are therefore tied to the political fortunes of their sponsors. According to the U.S. State Department, foreign celebrity and sports publications were available for sale, but there were no foreign newspapers, bookstores, or even newsstands in the country. Foreign broadcasts are allowed, including those of Radio France Internationale and Radio Exterior, an international shortwave service from Spain. Through its interviews with opposition politicians, Radio Exterior operates as the only means by which opposition voices can reach rural populations. Internet access is limited to just over 0.5 percent of the population by the level of poverty in Equatorial Guinea but is not directly restricted by the government. Nonetheless, government operatives are believed to monitor citizens’ e-mail and internet use.