- Journalist and correspondent Rodrigo Angue Nguema was released yesterday evening after spending eight days in police custody in Equatorial Guinea's capital, Malabo. He had reported on alleged coup plans.
Independent journalist Angue works as a correspondent for the wire service Agence France-Presse (AFP), the African agency PANA, as well as several other foreign news organisations. He is more or less the only independent journalists working in the country altogether.
Police arrested Mr Angue at his home on 3 November, after an article he wrote for AFP detailed rumours of an attempted military coup in Equatorial Guinea. Government officials said that the journalist was detained for questioning about the rumours.
The Equatoguinean Prime Minister "has asked the Prosecutor-General to look into the origin of the rumour about a coup attempt," Presidential Foreign Affairs adviser Miguel Oyono had told AFP last week. "So far, the only source we have for it is this journalist," he added at that stage.
Although finally freed from Malabo's main police station, Mr Angue is still being monitored by the authorities. According to his colleagues at AFP, he fears that the government could pursue legal action against him. Mr Angue remains under legal investigation, his lawyer told Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).
Equatorial Guinea has one of the most repressive media environments in Africa. The state press is dominated by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea. Private publications appear irregularly, and independent journalists are frequently harassed.
Last year, in spite of having proper accreditation, MR Angue was twice barred from covering the controversial trial of 144 opposition supporters who had been charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government, according to information gathered by the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
- We welcome Rodrigo Angue Nguema's release from detention, but he should never have been arrested in the first place, said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper in a statement issued today. "We call on the authorities in Equatorial Guinea to ensure that journalists are never imprisoned for their work."
Coup rumours are a frequent event in this small Central African dictatorship. Normally, however, they are spread by the Obiang government and serve forthcoming political purges. Local media would never dear to spread coup rumours - or any other rumours - that have not been authorised by the government.
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