Authorities Close the Country's Only Journalists' Association

Document from The International Freedom Of Expression Exchange, 26 February 2001

Paris—In a letter to Information Minister Lucas Nguema Esono, RSF asked for information on the exact reasons for the closure of the Equitorial Guinea Press Association (ASOPGE). RSF asked the minister to refer the matter to the appropriate authorities in order that this measure be cancelled. With the closure of this association, journalists in Equatorial Guinea lose their only space for freedom, stated Robert Menard, RSF's secretary-general. The organisation noted that this decision is a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Equatorial Guinea has ratified.

According to information obtained by RSF, the mayor of Malabo, Gabriel Mba Bela, ordered the closure of ASOPGE on 21 February 2001. Municipal police went to the association's headquarters and closed the office until further order. The two volunteers present in the headquarters were expelled. When he was contacted by Pedro Nolasco Ndong, ASOPGE's president, Mba Bela refused to give reasons for his decision. Legalised in 1997, ASOPGE's mission was to group journalists from the private and public press. Two new private weeklies, La Opinion and El Tiempo, use the association's computer equipment and print their publications there.

In Equatorial Guinea, access to information is totally controlled by the authorities. All the electronic media are subject to censorship and the private press is almost non-existent. The governing party controls the country's main publications, radio stations and television network. Several people have been arrested for being in possession of La Verdad, an opposition party magazine, and documents from non-governmental organisations.