Privately-owned Asonga TV’s viewers have been deprived of the programme “Buenos días Guinea” (Good morning, Equatorial Guinea) ever since 1 May, one day after it showed soldiers beating a man they caught on the street in violation of the lockdown. The seven journalists were sent home the same day without being told why and have remained suspended ever since. This small country on the west coast of Central Africa has been ruled with an iron hand for more than 40 years by President Teodoro Obiang, who holds the world record for longevity as a non-royal head of state.
“In Equatorial Guinea, not even the coronavirus escapes the government’s extremely tight news control and censorship,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The consequences of this policy of depriving the public of independently produced reporting could be disastrous because trampling on press freedom during a public health crisis means putting people in danger.”
When reached by RSF, Asonga TV’s management did not want to comment. The TV channel is closely controlled by the authorities because it belongs to Teodorín Nguema Obiang, who is vice-president in charge of defence and security as well as being the president’s son.
Two Asonga TV journalists, Melanio Nkogo and Ruben Bacale, were detained for 12 days last September after interviewing a judge criticizing his suspension. They have yet to be reinstated in their jobs at the TV channel.
Equatorial Guinea is ranked 165th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.