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German Public TV ZDF censored by authorities in Equatorial Guinea
Steffi Jones, head of the Local Organising Committee, holds the name of Equatorial Guinea during the official FIFA 2011 Women's World Cup final draw in November 2010 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (Photo by Getty Images)
By Christine Otieno, ZDF German Television

NAIROBI   June 16, 2011 - Staff members of Equatoguinean state television TVGE and state security on June 11, 2011 deleted video footage of a German TV team in Malabo, the country’s capital.

ZDF is Germany’s biggest public TV channel, broadcasting the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany starting on June 26th, with the Equatorial Guinean team competing in the World Cup for the first time.

ZDF was granted travel visas by the Ministry of National Security. Being supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Information the team filmed stories on women’s football as well as the general situation of Equatorial Guinea including new
investments by the government into infrastructure, local traditions and daily life in Malabo.

This tiny West African state is not featured much in Germany or other European news and this was an opportunity to showcase the country.

ZDF’s Africa correspondent Jorg Brase also interviewed the country’s only opposition MP, Plácido Mico, and human rights lawyer Fabian Nsue Nguema in a bid to understand the dynamics of a country ruled by one man, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, for the past 32 years. President Obiang is the current Chairman of the African Union.

On their last night the German TV crew were ordered by the director of state television TVGE, Teobaldo Nchaso Matomba, to hand over their complete video footage. Matomba claimed the team did not have proper accreditation by the Ministry of Information, despite the support they had received from various ministries in their filming. Jorg Brase appeared on the main news after interviewing Ruslan Obiang Nsue, the president’s son and State Secretary of Sports. Brase was also invited as a studio guest in a TVGE talk show on football.

The German TV crew were interviewed on their filming mission in a manner akin to police interrogation. They were accused of trying to present the country in a negative way by interviewing Mico and Nsue Nguema. They were escorted by various personnel, presumably state security, and treated like prisoners. Matomba claimed that the German crew was just permitted to report on Equatoguinean football. Even pictures of children playing football in the slums got deleted with authorities saying the footage cast the country in a bad light by showing poverty.

Brase objected this deleting of foreign video footage as a violation of the freedom of the press. He argued that talking to all sides including government, ordinary people, the opposition and civil society was the best way to show case the country without bias and is a mark of proper journalism. His objections fell on deaf ears and the team was escorted to the airport the next morning and sent back to Kenya. The act of censoring or harassing foreign and local journalists is not new in Equatorial Guinea.

The ZDF team was left with more than half of their footage deleted or confiscated.ZDF German TV’s head office in Mainz, Germany officially protested against this act of state censorship in a letter to the Equatoguinean ambassador in Berlin.

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