Equatorial Guinea has been recognized as one of the world’s most repressive countries in terms of the civil and political environment, freedom of the press and expression, and corruption in the government. The president of Equatorial Guinea, Teoboro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has been in power since 1979 and his government, the political elite, police and security forces work with impunity. During his reign, members of the international community have found that no free, fair elections have taken place, and opposition political parties are stifled by administrative obstacles, lack of funding and pressure from the ruling party, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE).
In this climate, human rights defenders’ work is severely limited, and they have faced repeated reprisals, threats, stigmatisation, harassment, and arbitrary arrests and detention. There are no legally recognized independent human rights organisations in Equatorial Guinea, and the government is suspicious of human rights activity as being anti-government. Human rights defenders have been suspended from their jobs for their legitimate and peaceful activities. Women human rights defenders work in an even more hostile atmosphere as violence against women is reported to be widespread, sexual harassment is not illegal, and, legally, women are restricted in their right to own property and their right to inheritance.
In 1992, the government enacted the Law on the Press, Publishing and Audiovisual Media which authorised government censorship of all publications. For journalists working in this environment, self-censorship is routine, as freedom of speech and expression are actively denied. Reportedly, news coverage of international events is not allowed in local media unless the President or a senior official travels outside the country. There are no laws guaranteeing freedom of information and disseminating information and news to rural areas is rare.
In addition, government surveillance pervades daily life, with digital, physical and media surveillance common. It has been reported that police and security forces operate under impunity, with little to no recourse for Equatorial Guineans to voice concern or report ill-treatment. The police force has been accused of torturing people who are in detention, working while inebriated, and extracting bribes from citizens. The police, military, media and judiciary are all controlled by the government. Lack of independence of these branches of society in Equatorial Guinea lead to impunity and corruption at all levels.