In Equatorial Guinea, a country ruled by the same man for more than 40 years, the media are muzzled and prior censorship is the norm.
There is no real media pluralism in Equatorial Guinea. The population’s main source of news is the government-controlled radio and TV broadcaster RTVGE. The country's only "privately owned" TV channel, Asonga, belongs to the president’s son, Teodorín Obiang, the current vice-president. Despite the differences in status, both of these broadcasters play identical roles as mouthpieces of the government’s propaganda and both only have a sizable number of viewers for their newscasts. TV channels transmitted by satellite or cable now have the most viewers. Recent years have seen an encouraging development – the emergence of online media outlets providing news coverage that partly escapes the government’s control.
The media are closely controlled by the government. There are no independent media outlets and the authorities can fire reporters who do not comply with the government’s censorship. The state media assign a secondary status to coverage of newsworthy stories such as pandemics or major traffic accidents. In February 2023, journalists wanting to cover the Marburg virus epidemic were required to show medical personnel an authorisation signed by the public health ministry. Foreign journalists are often denied entry into the country. There is no media regulator.
Equatorial Guinea’s media legislation is one of the toughest in Africa. Press offences are not decriminalised and lawsuits for slander or defamation are common, leading to permanent self-censorship. The Constitution guarantees access to state-held information but exercising this right is hampered by many legal provisions.
The economic situation prevents media outlets from trying to operate independently. State subsidies are meagre and are not provided to all media outlets. Under such circumstances, it is almost impossible to create a media outlet based on quality reporting. Journalists’ low wages make them susceptible to corruption.
Journalists are threatened, intimidated and subjected to arbitrary detention. Their phones are often tapped, they need special permission to visit certain areas, and sanctions are used to keep them in line. Four journalists were suspended from RTVGE in 2021 for criticising the technical committee set up to monitor and combat the Covid-19 pandemic. The few journalists who try to produce independent reporting are treated as “enemies of the regime” and are subjected to constant threats. Acts of violence against journalists go completely unpunished.