RECAP: HRF puts Gabon’s human rights and corruption crisis in the news


This week HRF drew attention to human rights violations and corruption in the Central African country of Gabon by challenging a recent PR trip by Argentine football star Lionel Messi. The world-famous athlete was invited by the dictator Ali Bongo, whose family has ruled Gabon since 1967. For decades the Bongos have treated Gabon like their personal property, systematically looting the country's vast natural resources, oil wealth, and rainforests. By visiting the country and joining the government’s propaganda machine, Messi—who is a UNICEF ambassador for children’s rights—helped whitewash a tyrant who has refused to investigate the disturbing ritual murders of children. By pointing this out, HRF sparked a global conversation on the little known crimes of the Gabonese dictatorship, educating millions of people through popular culture and mainstream media. We enclose a selection of the news coverage in ten languages below.

HRF has formally invited Messi to issue a statement condemning authoritarianism in Gabon and asking the government to protect Gabonese children and investigate allegations of government involvement in their ritual killing.

If you’d like to learn about how you can help support HRF’s work to make dictatorship front-page news, please contact HRF’s work this week delivered a serious setback to the Bongo family’s expensive efforts to whitewash and cover up their crimes. You can join this effort today by donating on our website now at

The Guardian: “Lionel Messi accused of undermining children's rights work with Gabon visit

ESPN: “Human Rights Foundation hits out at Lionel Messi over Gabon trip

EFE: “Messi apoya a una 'cruel y corrupta dictadura'

Marca: “Una ONG critica la visita de Messi a Gabón

Canal Plus: “Messi attaqué par la fondation des droits de l'homme

The Independent: “Lionel Messi criticised by human rights group for 'partying with oppressors' in Gabon

BBC: “Barcelona midfielder Lionel Messi has been criticised by the Human Rights Foundation for making a visit to Gabon

Aftenposten: “Den norske aktivistens utskjelling av Messi går verden rundt

The Telegraph: “Lionel Messi criticised by Human Rights Foundation for Gabon trip

Bleacher Report: “Lionel Messi Slammed for 'Partying with Oppressors' by Human Rights Foundation

Daily Mail: “Barcelona star Lionel Messi accused of 'partying with the oppressors' by Human Rights Foundation following Gabon trip 'which he was paid £2.4m for'”

Univision: “ONG critica visita de Messi a Gabón donde colocó la primera piedra de un nuevo estadio

Terra: “ONG critica Messi por encontro com presidente do Gabão: 'Incoerente'”

Lenta: “Правозащитники обвинили Месси в поддержке африканского диктатора

Ekstrabladet: “Lukker øjnene: Alvorlige anklager mod Messi

Metro TV: “Berfoto dan Mendukung Diktator Gabon, Messi Dihujat

TVN 24: “Messi podpadł Fundacji Praw Człowieka. "Popiera reżim

The Thao Van Hoa: “Messi bị cáo buộc ủng hộ chế độ độc tài ở Gabon