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Equatorial Guinea Rejects Suggestion That It Was Responsible For Journalist’s Death

January 9, 2013

Minister of Information calls insinuation by Reporters Without Borders “baseless” and “unfair.”

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, Jan. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The government of Equatorial Guinea today rejected what it termed “baseless and unfair insinuations” by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) that it may have been responsible for the death of a local journalist.

In a letter to RSF, Minister of Information Agustin Nze Nfumu challenged the underlying allegations cited by RSF in the case of Manuel Nze Nsongo, who died unexpectedly in late November. He said, “…the insinuation by Reporters Without Borders that Manuel may have been poisoned by the government is baseless and unfair, and the facts you cite to support your insinuation are wrong.”

RSF had said that Mr. Nze Nsongo had died two days after attending a working lunch with the minister of information. In its statement, RSF said that his relatives suspected he was poisoned, but added that “there is no evidence to support their claims.”

Minister Nze Nfumu said that there had been no working lunch.

“I had an official meeting with him in my office, in the presence of two representatives of UNESCO and my chief of staff,” Minister Nze Nfumu said in his letter. “Two days later, in a public ceremony at the Equatoguinean Cultural Center, we opened a seminar together on HIV/AIDS awareness for journalists.

“Manuel fell ill ten days later, and we did not see each other during those ten days.”

The minister described Manuel Nze Nsongo as “my very good friend of many years and the godfather to one of my children.” He said, “Manuel’s unexpected death was a painful blow to his many friends in Equatorial Guinea, including many people in government who had collaborated and worked with him over the years.”

Nze Nsongo had held high-level government positions for many years. He was chief of protocol for President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo from 1979 to 1991 and at the foreign ministry from 1991 to 1994. He later dedicated himself to journalism and became the president of the Equatorial Guinea Press Association (ASOPGE).

RSF had said, “The circumstances of his death have raised many questions and prompted various interpretations,” which it attributed to the lack of an autopsy. It also said that “rumours of poisoning are not unusual in Malabo after a government opponent suddenly dies,” but cited no source and named no other cases of poisoning.

Minister Nze Nfumu said he was “deeply offended personally–a sense of offense that I share with my government–to have been indirectly accused through a baseless and reckless insinuation of responsibility for my friend’s death.”

He said he was committed to the development of a more professional press in Equatorial Guinea and called on Reporters Without Borders to set an example for seriousness, integrity and truth.

“After all,” he said, “if an organization like yours can engage in such sensationalism, what can one expect of journalists with much less experience, preparation, and professionalism?”

An English translation of the full text of the letter from Minister Agustin Nze Nfumu to Reporters without Borders follows:

I was negatively surprised to read your recent statement of concern about the death of Manuel Nze Nsongo, my very good friend of many years and the godfather to one of my children. Manuel’s unexpected death was a painful blow to his many friends in Equatorial Guinea, including many people in government who had collaborated and worked with him over the years.

But the insinuation by Reporters Without Borders that Manuel may have been poisoned by the government is baseless and unfair, and the facts you cite to support your insinuation are wrong.

Specifically, I did not have a “working lunch” with Manuel. I had an official meeting with him in my office, in the presence of two representatives of UNESCO and my chief of staff. Two days later, in a public ceremony at the Equatoguinean Cultural Center, we opened a seminar together on HIV/AIDS awareness for journalists.

Manuel fell ill ten days later, and we did not see each other during those ten days.

I appreciate your organization’s advocacy of a free press, and I am committed to the development of a more professional press in Equatorial Guinea. But I believe an organization like Reporters Without Borders, which has established itself as a defender of the journalism profession, should set an example for seriousness, integrity and truth. I am deeply offended personally–a sense of offense that I share with my government–to have been indirectly accused through a baseless and reckless insinuation of responsibility for my friend’s death.

Moreover, the journalism profession maintains its standing as a source of information by adhering to very high standards for seriousness and fairness, but speculation, insinuation and cynicism of the sort contained in your statement can only reinforce the cynicism and suspicion that exists in some quarters about the press. After all, if an organization like yours can engage in such sensationalism, what can one expect of journalists with much less experience, preparation, and professionalism?

Sincerely,

Agustin Nze Nfumu
Minister of Information

About Equatorial Guinea
The Republic of Equatorial Guinea (Republica de Guinea Ecuatorial) is the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa, and one of the smallest nations on the continent. In the late-1990s, American companies helped discover the country’s oil and natural gas resources, which only within the last five years began contributing to the global energy supply. Equatorial Guinea is now working to serve as a pillar of stability and security in its region of West Central Africa. The country hosted the 2011 Summit of the African Union. For more information, visit http://www.guineaecuatorialpress.com.

SOURCE Republic of Equatorial Guinea


Source: PR Newswire