Letter to the Editor of Africa 24
Letter to the Editor of Africa 24December 14, 2011
A letter sent by EG Justice to the editor of Africa 24 expressing our concern over their recent one-sided reporting on the UNESCO-Obiang Prize.
A copy of the original article by Africa 24 is available in French.
47 Quai Carnot 92210
Saint Cloud, France
We are disappointed by Africa 24’s December 6 story on the UNESCO-Obiang prize. As a worldwide African news channel, Africa 24 should provide quality unbiased reporting that analyzes both sides of an issue. Your reporting, however, was based almost entirely on an interview with Equatoguinean presidential advisor Agapito Mba Mokuy, resulting in a one-sided story that failed to meet the journalistic standards to which an unbiased news organization should aspire.
The UNESCO-Obiang Prize has been challenged by a diverse global coalition of individuals and organizations, including African Nobel Prize Laureates Desmond Tutu and Wole Soyinka, esteemed African novelist Chinua Achebe, more than 60 Equatoguinean citizens, Cano Freedom Prize winners, scientists and health professionals, and civil society organizations. These individuals and groups have made their objections to the prize public and clear. UNESCO should not honor President Obiang with a prize because he has repeatedly violated human rights, failed to provide democracy and civil liberties, and used Equatorial Guinea’s funds for his own personal enrichment rather than the development of his people. There is reason to be concerned that the $3 million gift that President Obiang provided to UNESCO for the prize was obtained through corrupt activities.
Unfortunately, Mr. Mba Mokuy was allowed in your story to make an unchallenged claim that no evidence of government corruption in Equatorial Guinea exists. In fact, there are currently separate corruption investigations in France, Spain, and the United States. In the French investigation, there was enough evidence to warrant the seizure of eleven supercars from the Obiang family’s home in Paris in September 2011. In October 2011, the United States Department of Justice filed two forfeiture claims against assets belonging to President Obiang’s son. In the court documents, the Department of Justice provides specific examples of extortion schemes, misappropriation of funds, embezzlement, and other corrupt schemes that are illegal according to the laws of both Equatorial Guinea and the United States.
In your story, Mr. Mba Mokuy repeated the Equatoguinean Ministry of Information’s misleading assertion that two NGOs leading the global coalition against the UNESCO-Obiang Prize—Transparency International and Sherpa—have significant economic interests in Equatorial Guinea and, therefore, have an ulterior motive for their opposition. We are disappointed that Mr. Boton accepted this assertion without stronger evidence to support it. We would have appreciated hearing the opinions of Sherpa and Transparency International on this accusation.
We would also like to address points that Mr. Mba Mokuy raised in defense of his government’s record on democracy. He stated that Equatorial Guinea recently held a referendum to reform its constitution and strengthen democratic institutions. However, a number of the constitutional changes significantly expand the president’s authority and further institutionalize a lack of checks and balances among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Furthermore, the referendum process was marred by widespread reports of voting fraud, harassment of opposition supporters, and intimidation of voters. Since your story did not reflect these important facts, Mr. Mba Mokuy’s assertions were allowed to stand uncontested.
In short, Africa 24 would have provided its audience with a more thorough, fact-based report if it had more rigorously researched these issues and contacted individuals and organizations directly involved in the campaign against the UNESCO-Obiang prize. Our organization, EG Justice, a civil society organization that promotes human rights, democracy, and transparency in Equatorial Guinea, leads the UNESCO-Obiang Prize opposition campaign and would have gladly discussed our objections to it. We hope that in the future Africa 24 will provide a more fair and balanced presentation of both sides of a story.
We appreciate your consideration to this important matter.
Tutu Alicante Joseph Kraus
Executive Director Program and Development Director
EG Justice EG Justice