France-based press freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has called on the Equatorial Guinean authorities to immediately free two journalists detained over one week ago for interviewing a judge fired by the supreme court.
Melanio Nkogo and Ruben Bacale, two journalists working for private Asonga TV, according to RSF, have been languishing in police custody in Bata, the country’s largest city, for over one week.
The journalists, the NGO said, were arrested on August 27 allegedly after interviewing an investigating judge in the city.
“These two journalists have been in police custody for much longer than the legally permitted period and there are no grounds for holding them because they were just doing their job,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.
“These arrests confirm the vulnerability of Equatorial Guinean journalists, who are exposed to the worst forms of intimidation as soon as they begin to stray from the editorial line demanded by the regime or by those close to it. We call on the authorities to release these journalists at once.”
Asong TV is the sole private channel in the tiny African country. Though owned by son and Vice-President Teodorín Nguema Obiang, it is under tight scrutiny.
Equatorial Guinea ranks 165th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
Last year, Ramón Nse Ebalé, a cartoonist and staunch critic of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema in power for 40 years, was sentenced to six months in jail on trumped-up charges of forgery and money laundering that were later dropped.