afrol News, 20 May - Media organisations are furious over a US$ 3 million personal donation by Equatoguinean dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema to the UN culture agency UNESCO. The donation is to co-finance a press freedom award.
Equatorial Guinea is among the worst countries in the world regarding human rights and press freedom. No independent media exist and all media outlets are controlled by the state or family members of President Obiang.
A US$ 3 million donation from President Obiang for the administration of an international prize in life sciences is now causing a headache for UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. The Obiang prize was recently approved by UNESCO's executive board, causing international media organisations to react.
Now, thirty press freedom groups from Brazil to Pakistan and Ghana yesterday wrote a strongly worded protest letter to Ms Bokova, saying Dictator Obiang is trying to bribe the UN agency. UNESCO's mandate also include the media and world press freedom.
"As a leading institution that advocates 'empowering people through the free flow of ideas and by access to information and knowledge,' UNESCO should not accept funds from one of Africa's worst violators of press freedom," the protest letter to the UNESCO leader says, reminding the UN agency of its charter.
"With Obiang's iron grip on the media, the world will never learn how much Equatorial Guinea's oil wealth is siphoned off by the ruling elite. While the country's oil wealth has placed its GDP on par with Italy and Spain, the bulk of the population lives below the poverty line," the media organisations write. The money to be donated by President Obiang stems from Equatorial Guinea's untransparent oil industry, totally controlled by the Obiang family.
If UNESCO administers this prize funded by Mr Obiang, the media organisations say, the UN agency would lose its credibility regarding press freedom issues. "The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, which honours 'a person, organization or institution that has made a notable contribution to the defense and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially if this involved risk,' will be undermined if were bestowed by an organisation that accepted money from a regime that oppresses the media," the letter says.
The media organisations announce a campaign to move members of UNESCO's executive board to reverse its decision, urging Ms Bokova to commit to the same.
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