Armed police surrounded Luanda-based opposition radio station Radio Despertar yesterday morning while one of its journalists, Gonçalves Vieira, was arrested after going to cover preparations for a peaceful protest against “arbitrary detention and political persecution in Angola.”
Viera had time to send his colleagues a message saying the police had arrested him and were taking him somewhere. They finally let him go after holding him for two hours.
“We condemn such attempts to intimidate journalists, which are designed to prevent them from doing their work,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Africa desk at Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
“Vieira was just doing his job by covering the preparations for this demonstration. Regardless of what the police claimed later, the demonstration was announced in advance and received authorization.”
Radio Despertar deputy manager Queiros Anastasios Chiluvia, who is on RSF’s list of “100 Information Heroes,” told Reporters Without Borders that uniformed and plainclothes police took up position around the radio station at 10 a.m. and remained there all day.
He said the aim of the operation was to intimidate the station’s journalists and prevent them covering the demonstration, which was scheduled to start at 3 p.m. He said the operation worked as the station’s journalists were too scared to go out while they police were there.
Funded by the main opposition party, UNITA, Radio Despertar was previously subjected to intimidation last year, when Chiluvia was given a six-month suspended jail sentence.
On 23 July, Nelson Sul de Angola, a reporter for Deutsche Welle and Semanário Angolese, was arrested and his camera was confiscated as he was photographing the facade of Calomboloca prison, where 15 young activists have been held since their arrest on 20 June at the end of a meeting about governance for allegedly “intending to disturb public order and safety.”
None of these activists has been formally charged and their detention has been condemned by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations.
Angola is ranked 123rd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.