Equatorial Guinea | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

89

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

35

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

27

Freedoms of expression and of the press are legally guaranteed, but these rights are practically ignored. The 1992 Press Law gives the government unusually extensive authority to restrict press activities through official prepublication censorship. Registration requirements for establishing newspapers and periodicals are burdensome. All domestic journalists are required to register with the Ministry of Information, and equally strict accreditation procedures are in place for foreign correspondents. Almost all local coverage is orchestrated or tightly controlled by the government. There are no laws guaranteeing freedom of information, and neither local nor foreign journalists could generally access government information. In practice, all information is reserved for journalists with state-run media houses. Conditions improved only slightly in 2007 with televised public events that provided some information on state revenues and expenditures.

Local journalists were subject to systematic surveillance and frequently practiced self-censorship. The few international reporters who managed to obtain government accreditation were constantly monitored, threatened, and harassed by government officials. As in 2006, there were no reported cases of physical abuse or imprisonment during the year, a reflection of the government’s degree of control. The local press refrain from reporting on such incidents, even when journalists are the victims. 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. The opposition has little access to domestic media, and political party publications are not permitted to be publicly distributed; nonetheless, opposition criticism of the government was televised in September during coverage of a legislative session. During the year, authorities announced that they would boost cooperation with the governments of Zimbabwe and China to enhance the production and transmission of official broadcasts; neither partnership boded well for the enhancement of media freedom.

Equatorial Guinea is one of the few African countries with virtually no independent media. Given the high level of poverty and illiteracy throughout the country, the most influential medium is radio, but all domestic radio and television stations are owned directly by the government or 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. A dozen ostensibly private local newspapers appear irregularly due primarily to financial constraints but function mainly as political mouthpieces. According to the U.S. State Department, foreign publications are not permitted to be sold or distributed without government permission, there are no newsstands in the country, and the only bookstores are those affiliated with religious organizations. Foreign broadcasts are available, including those of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio France Internationale, and Radio Exterior, an international shortwave service from Spain; uncensored satellite broadcasts are increasingly available to those who can afford the service. Through its interviews with opposition politicians, Radio Exterior serves as the only means by which opposition voices can reach rural populations. The government does not restrict internet access, although government operatives are believed to monitor citizens’ e-mail and internet use. Owing to high poverty levels, less than 2 percent of the population was able to access the internet in 2007.