- Police in Equatorial Guinea's mainland city of Bata have seized 200 copies of 'La Verdad', a small political party newspaper that is the country's sole opposition publication. The seizure comes as part of a new government repression wave, aiming at muzzling local opposition groups and foreign media writing critically about Equatorial Guinea.
The copies of 'La Verdad', which had been sent from the capital (Malabo) for distribution on the mainland part of Equatorial Guinea, were seized by airport police on 9 June in Bata, the second largest city of the country.
Published irregularly by the Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), 'La Verdad' is the only opposition news media in Equatorial Guinea. The day before its seizure, airport police had confiscated documents in the possession of CPDS leader Plácido Micó as he returned to Malabo from a trip abroad. The police told him they were acting on orders from a superior.
The dictatorial government or family members of the President control all the country's mass media, radio and television. Journalists working for the state media have absolutely no freedom, and just relay official propaganda. In a weekly programme about matters of national interest in 2003, for example, the state radio said President Teodoro Obiang was "the God of Equatorial Guinea" and could "decide to kill without having to render account to anyone and without going to hell."
According to the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF), the seizure of 'La Verdad' is only one incident in a row as the government seeks to silence all remaining critics - at home and abroad. "It is the overall situation for independent news media that is absolutely scandalous," the organisation said. "Under the rule of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a notorious press freedom predator, the least hint of any opposition results in confiscation, arrest or imprisonment."
In July 2004, the government announced its intention of bringing civil and criminal prosecutions against the international press for its "tendentious comments" about President Obiang's relations with the US bank Riggs. The Spanish press was particularly targeted after it published a US senate sub-committee report accusing Riggs Bank of turning a blind eye to corruption in its handling of more than 60 bank accounts for the Obiang administration.
RSF further refers to a threatening phone call from presidential spokesman Miguel Oyono on 11 April to Pablo Gracia Sáez, the editor of the Spanish-language service of afrol News. On 9 March, Rodrigo Angue Nguema, the Malabo correspondent of Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Radio France Internationale (RFI), was forcefully pushed by the president's press director and barred from attending a presidential press conference.
The leader of Equatorial Guinea's independent journalist association, Pedro Nolasco, was forced to leave the country several years ago as the Obiang regime forcedly dissolved the association. Mr Nolasco now published the newspaper 'El Muni' from his Spanish exile and routinely receives threats from Equatoguinean government officials, including death threats.
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