JOURNALISTS harassed and threatened in Cabinda

I forward this news from Cabinda as a typical example of how journalists
and media people throughout Angola live and work and censor themselves
under threat.
Similar stories have just come in from Malanje concerning Isaias Soares and
Aletenjo da Costa, among others.
The threats may be even more real in the provinces than in Luanda, where
the international spotlight shines a little brighter.
Their courage is to be commended, and NGO's in Angola do well when they
establish common cause with them; speaking with them and for them, as the
Bishop of Cabinda apparently did in this story.

MISA is an excellent resource within Southern Africa on the freedom of
expression, and it is backed by an international network which quickly gets
the word out.
Church, NGO workers, and other networks would do well to establish or
improve similar networks to raise alarms when Angolan colleagues call for
help and protection.

UPDATE ANGOLA is ready to publicize such abuses of human rights as far as
possible and call for action as appropriate.

IFEX- News from the international freedom of expression community


9 January 2001

Journalists harassed and threatened in Cabinda

SOURCE: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Windhoek

**Updates IFEX alerts of 23 January 1998 and 28 November 1996**

(MISA/IFEX) - On 31 October 2000, Cabinda journalist Francisco Fino
organised a religious ceremony to pay homage to deceased journalist António
Casimiro, murdered on 31 October 1996.

An outspoken priest, Jorge Casimiro Congo, celebrated a mass in memory of
Casimiro. Fino, at the time chief-editor-in-charge of the Public Television
of Angola (TPA) in  Cabinda, edited the television coverage of the event and
decided to air it. However, alerted of this, TPA-Cabinda Director Francisco
José went into the newsroom and confiscated the cassette.

He alleged that the material could not be aired by Fino because he was
suspected of being a member of a small opposition party, Front for Democracy
(FpD). José added that Casimiro Congo was banned from speaking or being seen
in the state controlled media, especially on TPA. The director went further,
threatening to expel the journalist from TPA.

A group of journalists had notified local government authorities of their
initiative to organise a march in memory of Casimiro, also on 31 October,
but the authorities prohibited the march.

Casimiro had denounced a case of plundering of public funds in Cabinda, in
which he implicated local government official Francisco Raúl da Rocha. Days
before Casimiro was murdered, da Rocha threatened to kill the journalist by
pointing a handgun at him during an official public ceremony.

To date, the case remains silenced, despite the promises made by Minister of
Social Communication Hendrick Vaal Neto, that the assassins would be brought
to justice. Also, the government has failed to support Casimiro's wife and
six children, as earlier promised.

On 26 August 2000, Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos visited Cabinda
and inaugurated an unfinished health post in the village of Chinga. The
local population complained to TPA-Cabinda that the equipment installed in
the health post had been temporarily borrowed from Hospital "1º de Maio",
only for the president's inauguration, and then immediately returned. To the
utter dismay of the population, thirty minutes before the president's
arrival in Chinga, painters were still finishing painting the health post's

Journalist Fino aired the material and reported that the population was
unhappy and frustrated for not being able to voice their discontent directly
to the president.

For his daringness, Fino was suspended for a week from TPA-Cabinda, and
urged to "clean up" the images of Cabinda Governor Amaro Tati and the
provincial delegate of health.

In reply, Fino stated that the most he could do was to interview the
provincial delegate of health, who could then give his own version of
events. Fino declared that all he did was air people's reactions and he
would not "clean up" anyone's image. For refusing to do so, he was accused
of having coerced the population to speak out. As the authorities learned
that Fino was about to denounce the pressure on him to Voice of America, the
authorities gave him his job back, however, with a string of warnings.

In a separate incedident, Manuel da Costa, a "Voice of America" stringer in
Cabinda, has been under constant harassment by the local authorities since
he reported on a women's march in protest against the military drafting of
their children.

On 16 August, a group of police officers beat up da Costa. The journalist
was driving from his home to the village of Cabasango (four kilometres from
the center of Cabinda) to interview priest Bernabé Lello, who had been
beaten up by a Cabinda Military Regional Command sergeant.

The police officers, which were patrolling in a police car coded 009, pulled
the journalist off the road and asked for his documents. According to da
Costa, the officers' breath smelled of alcohol and, suspiciously, he asked
them to identify themselves first, as they did not bear the signs of police
officers on duty.

"I was suddenly hit on the face with such violence that I could not tell
whether I had been hit by a punch or a gun. From then on, I  became a
punching bag. Fortunately, some passers-by recognised my car and insisted
that the police officers stop beating me up. A traffic police officer came
in and told his colleagues that their actions were illegal, but I was
already in very bad shape, bleeding, and with a swollen face. I had to stay
in bed for sixteen days," said da Costa.

The journalist filed a complaint against the police officers at the Police
Bureau of Criminal Investigation (DPIC), but the case died there. "They did
not do anything. Only the religious authorities, including Cabinda Bishop
Paulino Madeca, provided me with some moral comfort," explained the

On 28 May, da Costa went to a party in celebration of Cabinda's Day, where
he encountered troubles. Six men forced him out of the party, despite his
physical resistance. A police officer guarding the event refused to help
him. He was taken to a nearby area and severely beaten up again in the midst
of questioning. Da Costa stated that one of the aggressors told him that "we
can kill you and nothing will happen to us. We have lots of influences. Do
you know why you are here?" The journalist recognised the two police
officers, Miranda and Xota.

A passer-by noticed the incident and went to seek help. Meanwhile, da Costa
begged for forgiveness for whatever he did wrong. As the aggressors calmed
down, the journalist vowed to take them to court, and thus the beating
session continued until he promised to forget the case completely.

"Despite the death threats, I went to file a complaint to the Bureau of
Criminal Investigation (DPIC). They told me that I needed a medical check up
as evidence of the aggression against me. DPIC sent an investigator along
with me to witness the check up. The doctor checked me and gave the medical
report to the investigator. He told me that my left eye was in grave
condition and that I had to seek proper medical care to avoid blindness in
the left eye."

"On the next day, DPIC called my aggressors for questioning, but on the
second day the case died out. The investigators told me nonsense. In fact,
they let me know that if I pursued the case any further, I would have to pay
the consequences."

Over 500 women took to the streets early in 1999, to protect their
children's lives from a war they consider unjustifiable. While da Costa was
covering the event, a young man close to him was already being questioned
and brutally beaten up by the police. They mistook him for da Costa and did
not waste their time verifying if  they were addressing the right person.

In December 1999, Cabinda Governor Amaro Tati introduced da Costa to
Minister of the Interior Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos as the "Voice
of America stringer."

"The minister called me a daring and curious journalist, who was sticking
out his neck," said da Costa, who also added "ironically, the governor of
Cabinda told me that I was daring to win the 'Maboque Prize' [an annual
Angolan prize for journalists]."

"In response, the minister of the interior told me to watch out, to ensure
that, instead of the prize, I did not receive a casket in its place, because
one needs to be very careful," stated the journalist. da Costa claims that
he is still seen as "persona non-grata" in  Cabinda and prevented from
covering some official events.

Days prior to the minister's visit to Cabinda, da Costa reported on a
demonstration against the military draft, for Voice of America, as a
stringer. According to the journalist, the TPA-Cabinda director warned him
that "by myself, I would beat the hell out of you, and make you vanish from
this planet" for "attempting against State security."

According to da Costa: "What is happening with the journalists in Cabinda is
because they don't have any defence. They are limited. They are unable to
denounce the harassments inflicted upon them or the authoritarian behaviour
of the media directors. Journalists  humiliate themselves in order to keep
the bread for their families, but miserable bread at that!"

He decided to face the risks and speak out on behalf of his colleagues.

For further information, contact Zoé Titus or Kaitira Kandjii, Regional
Information Coordinator, MISA, Street Address: 21 Johann Albrecht Street,
Mailing Address; Private Bag 13386 Windhoek, Namibia, tel: +264 61 232975,
fax: +264 61 248016, e-mail: or,

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