Crackdown on reporters covering Luanda demonstration

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is worried by police use of arrests and violence against journalists covering a protest last weekend in Luanda, the Angolan capital, and urges the authorities not to resort to the methods employed during the former dictatorship to restrict press freedom.

Several thousand people took part in the protest on 24 October against corruption, unemployment and a decision to postpone the local elections that should have been held this year.

Those detained included Suely de Melo and Carlos Tomé, who work for Rádio Essencial, a local station, and Santos Samuesseca, a photographer for the newspaper Valor Económico. They and their driver, Leonardo Faustino, were arrested without any grounds being given, and were held for 48 hours.

Domingos Caiombo and Octávio Zoba, who work for TV Zimbo, Angola’s biggest commercial TV channel, and AFP photographer Osvaldo Silva were held for several hours and were released only after being forced to delete their photos and video footage of the demonstration. Silva told RSF he was slapped, kicked and hit with batons by the police. Another AFP photographer, Georges Nsimba, was briefly detained and had to delete his photos to avoid suffering the same fate.

By covering this demonstration, these journalists were just doing their job,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “These arrests and attacks constitute a disturbing setback that recalls the dark hours of the dictatorship. Three years after President José Eduardo dos Santos’ departure, press freedom is still largely unrealized. If the authorities are sincere in their desire to turn the page on the years of predatory practices towards the media, they have no choice but to condemn these acts and punish those responsible.”

Earlier this month, RSF documented the harassment, threats and cyber-attacks to which several Angolan media and journalists were subjected after covering a case of alleged corruption involving the president’s chief of staff, Edeltrudes Costa, who was suspected of embezzling tens of millions of euros of public funds.

The independent news website Correio Angolense and Siona Casimiro, a freelance journalist and former RSF correspondent, were the targets of cyber-attacks, while several TV channels stopped inviting business reporter Carlos Rosado to take part in studio debates because he wanted to talk about the scandal.

Angola is ranked 106th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 28.10.2020