Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

Media advocacy group, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned the decision of the government in Equatorial Guinea to ban state television from covering the trial of former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo, which opened at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on January 28.

“We’ve been forbidden from airing Laurent Gbagbo’s trial due to his friendship with our president,” a journalist with the state television channel Radio Télévision Guinée équatoriale said.

“Equatorial Guinea is living up to its reputation as one of the most censored countries in the world, as one ruling autocrat tries to ban coverage of a fallen autocrat facing justice,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney, adding: “Charges of crimes against humanity are just too important to be dismissed. Justice can only be done when it is seen to be done and for that we need a free press.”
Equatorial Guinea has a history of tightly controlling the press, either through direct control, patronage, or indirect pressure, and in 2012 was featured on CPJ’s list of most censored countries.

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Gbagbo, who faces four counts of crimes against humanity, is a longtime friend of Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo Nguema, who, according to news reports, publicly urged Africans to boycott the ICC following Gbagbo’s transfer to The Hague in April 2011.