Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Armando Chicoca, a freelance journalist who was sentenced to a year in prison last month for allegedly defaming the senior judge in the southern city of Namibe, was released on 2,500 US dollars in bail on 7 April pending the outcome of an appeal to the supreme court.
A contributor to the US government’s Voice of America radio station, Radio Ecclesia and several independent Angolan magazines, Chicoca spent 33 days in detention.
Chicoca expressed thanks for the support he received while in detention. “I ended up getting privileged treatment compared with the other detainees,” he told Reporters Without Borders. “And I feel motivated to continue my work with the same dedication, the same energy and the same firmness without any bitterness.”
“While welcoming Chicoca’s release, we are now waiting for his conviction to be quashed on appeal,” Reporters Without Borders said. “He acted professionally, asking the head of the Namibe court for his comment before publishing the information about him that was regarded as damaging. The court that tried him took no account of this fact but it is essential for determining whether or not he was guilty of defamation.”
09.03.2011 - Journalist gets one-year jail term, media harassed and censored
Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the growing problems that Angola’s journalists are experiencing and the mistrust and hostility that the authorities are showing towards some media. A reporter has been sentenced to a year in prison and several media and journalists have been threatened, roughed up or censored in the past two weeks.
“It is a disgrace for Angola that a journalist has been given a jail sentence for an alleged case of defamation that has not been proved,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call for this conviction to be overturned on appeal. And we are disturbed that the authorities are controlling freedom of expression so closely and sometimes try to gag media by harassing journalists.”
The press freedom organization added: “This tendency has been increasing of late as the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) prepares its upcoming congress and the government is clearly concerned about the possibility that the protests rocking the Arab world could spread to Angola.”
After previous harassment, freelance reporter gets a year in jail
Armando Chicoca, a freelancer who reports for the US government’s Voice of America radio station and several independent Angolan magazines was sentenced last week to a year in prison for allegedly defaming Antonio Vissandula, the top judge in the southern city of Namibe. His lawyer, David Mendès, who was unable to attend the trial, intends to file an appeal today.
Currently held in Namibe’s main prison, Chicoca was prosecuted for reporting the claims of Judge Vissandula’s former maid that she was fired for rejecting his sexual advances.
Chicoca spent 33 days in prison in 2007 for covering the protests that followed the demolition of a market. He received death threats earlier this year and his brother was murdered in January in still unclear circumstances.
Threats, harassment and censorship
Four journalists employed by the Jornal Novo weekly – Pedro Cardoso, Afonso Francisco, Idálio Kandé and Ana Margoso – were arrested while covering an anti-government demonstration in Luanda’s Independence Square on 7 March and were held for several hours by the police. All were treated roughly and Margoso was forced to show all the messages in her mobile phone and to clean her cell before her release.
In another case of overt censorship, state security officials ordered the company that prints the weekly Folha 8 to stop printing the latest issue last weekend. The authorities have had the newspaper’s editor, William Tonet (photo), in their sights for years and he was banned from leaving the country in 2009.
Reporters Without Borders has also learned that two women reporters working for Radio Ecclesia, Zenina Volola and Matilde Vanda, were threatened by state security officials while covering the opening of a congress of the Angolan Women’s Organization (OMA), the women’s wing of the MPLA, on 27 February.
They were first rebuffed by MPLA secretary-general Júlio Paulo “Dino Matross,” who refused to give them an interview, saying in a show of contempt and mistrust: “I do not speak to Ecclesia because you mistreat us.” Then state security officials stopped them and ordered them to surrender their recordings, saying: “If you kill with information, we kill with guns.”