afrol News, 31 March - Equatoguinean officials for the first time have commented the rumours of an arrest of President Teodoro Obiang's first-born son "Teodorín" in the United States, denying them categorically, and saying they are of a "totally false nature".
In a statement to afrol News, Mr. Sisinio Mbana, First Secretary of Equatorial Guinea's Embassy in Washington, says he is shocked about afrol News publishing these false rumours. "I can assure you that the President's son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, has not been arrested," Mbana says.
He goes on saying the President's son currently "is travelling in the United States on a very successful mission to attract foreign investment to Equatorial Guinea, and is currently in California. The President has concluded a very successful visit to the United States where he met with the Bush Administration, The Congress, foreign investors, and the media. The U.S. Department of State is also available to confirm these facts."
At the beginning of March, rumours were mounting among dissidents and within Equatorial Guinea of the arrest of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, mostly known as Teodorín (to differentiate him from his father, which has a very similar name). afrol News wrote that "usually credible sources have reported that ... 'Teodorín' is detained in New York involved in the import and sale of a large quantity of cocaine," in an article more focused on how rumours develop in the closed Equatoguinean society than on trying to document "Teodorín's" whereabouts.
Much interest is attached to the person of "Teodorín", as he is commonly regarded as the probable heir of his cancer sick father to the Equatoguinean presidency. Teodoro Obiang Mangue has occupied the post of Minister of Fisheries, Woods and Environment for the last years, and when the government stepped down following corruption charges last month, and a new government was appointed, "Teodorín" was one of the ministers to keep his post.
"Teodorín" himself is a person that has tried to avoid publicity. From his political carrier, few details are known, according to the usually trustworthy Spanish Association for Democratic Solidarity with Equatorial Guinea (ASODEGUE). It is however known that he has been sentenced twice for drug trafficking in France in the 1990s. "He alters between short periods in Guinea (where he continuously is campaigning for the succession of his father) and long stays abroad, where he spends the great revenue he has from his businesses (mainly wood and telecommunications)," ASODEGUE claims.
ASODEGUE provided the main sources for the afrol News headline "Rumours of US arrest of president's son" on 16 March. Concluding on the rumours, afrol News wrote; "The credibility of this rumour is still difficult to appraise. Equatorial Guinea is a very closed society, where there so far has been no room for an independent and investigating press. Afrol.com has never been able to get comments on its news coverage from the government."
In this way, it is a news headline in itself that the Equatoguinean Embassy in Washington chooses to comment on the rumours published by afrol News. Mr. Sisinio Mbana says he had read the article "with a combination of both shock and humor." He goes on: "I was shocked that a journalistic organization would print a story without first checking its facts" and "the humor arises from the totally false nature of the story. It is so erroneous and outrageous that it can not be taken seriously. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to print this story on April 1st."
While afrol News invites Mr. Mbana to read the story we will publish about Equatorial Guinea on 1 April, the editor welcomes the Embassy's step to contribute to the media coverage of the country. In fact, Mr. Mbana assures that in future, he "would be pleased to provide information on matters in Equatorial Guinea in order to assure that the highest journalist standards are maintained by afrol.com."
- We welcome this step by the Equatoguinean Embassy, says afrol editor Pablo Gracia. "afrol News has for a long time tried to bring a regular, broad and serious news coverage of Equatorial Guinea, an aim that admittedly has been difficult to fulfil when most available sources belong to the opposition," he concludes. afrol News, through its redactional profile, has obliged itself to let every voice be heard and work by high, journalistic standards.
Sources: Based on Equ.Guinean Embassy in the US, ASODEGUE and afrol archives