Three Cabo Verde journalists could be jailed for covering case involving minister
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities in Cabo Verde to drop proceedings against three journalists who could be facing up to two years in prison for allegedly violating the confidentiality of an investigation into the current interior minister’s possible role in a murder. These proceedings are obstructing coverage of the case and could prevent the truth emerging, RSF says.
Santiago Magazine editor Herminio Silves was formally accused by a prosecutor on 26 January in connection with the article he published on 28 December about the investigation into interior minister Paul Rocha’s possible involvement in a murder in 2014, when Rocha was deputy director of the judicial police.
According to the article, the victim of that murder was himself suspected of having murdered a police inspector’s mother the same year in relation to an investigation into a high-profile drug trafficking case.
Similar accusations were brought on 4 February against Alexandre Semedo, the editor of the renowned weekly A Nação, and Daniel Almeida, one of his reporters, in connection with an article on the same subject published on 12 January.
The current judicial status of the three journalists is “arguido” – a Portuguese term that is mid-way between “assisting police with their enquiries” and being charged, which could lead to arrest. They are meanwhile banned from talking about the case.
“In a country such as Cabo Verde, which is normally spared major press freedom violations, it is unprecedented and very disturbing to see journalists facing the possibility of arrest and imprisonment for their reporting,” said Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF’s West Africa bureau. “We condemn this attempted intimidation of journalists who simply covered a case involving a high-ranking politician. We urge the authorities to drop these proceedings without delay and to allow the journalists to do their job with complete freedom.”
Silves and Almeida have told RSF that they suspect that the police are monitoring their communications. All three journalists are required to notify the authorities if they leave their place of residence for more than five days or if they change their telephone number.
Silves’s lawyer, Silvino Fernandes, told RSF that the situation is completely unprecedented in Cabo Verde. “This is the first time that an accusation against journalists has been supported by the prosecutor-general’s office,” he said.
The conclusions of the investigations into the journalists are supposed to be delivered this month. So far, no date has been set for a trial. Fernandes says the authorities could try to drag out the proceedings and delay a decision in order to deter other journalists from trying to cover the case involving the interior minister.
Cabo Verde is ranked 27th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.