Friday, September 27, 2013

Angolan Journalists Interviewing 'Magnificent Seven,' Arrested And Assaulted

Seven activists re-arrested by police (Photo courtesy Maka Angola)


Three Angolan journalists were detained in Luanda on September 19 by the police, and assaulted for interviewing members of the Angolan Revolutionary Movement who had been just released from custody. Although the journalists were later freed, the activists who were rearrested while being interviewed remain in detention. The account of the incident by one of the journalists, Rafael Marquez de Morais, is an eloquent testimony to the perils of journalists and other human rights defenders in a country that systematically violates the rule of law.

De Morais, who is a freelancer, was detained and manhandled with Alexandre Solombe Neto of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and vice-president of the Union of Angola Journalists (SJA) and Coque Mukuta, Voice of America correspondent, after they spoke to seven activists of the Angolan Revolutionary Movement (ARM), fighting for social justice and democracy in Angola. ARM has asked Angola’s president, Eduardo Dos Santos, to stand down due to his authoritarian style of government.

“The arrest of three journalists who were just doing their professional duty is unacceptable,” the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) said. “The harassment to which De Morais in particular is being subjected must stop at once. It reflects the government’s fear of what he has been reporting.”

The Brussels-based media watchdog International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said, “The IFJ has stressed the importance of free and safe reporting and has stated that the authorities in Angola have a duty to guarantee a safe working environment for journalists and to promote press freedom. Journalists and media in the country have the duty to report independently and give the floor to all those who want to express themselves.”

RSF’s expression special concern for De Morais due to repeated acts of harassment in the hands of state authorities, including 11 defamation suits – defamation is a criminal offence in Angola – and for his 2011 book, “Diamantes de Sangue: Corrupção e Tortura em Angola” (Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola).

Meanwhile, De Morais’ bald description in his blog Maka Angola of events when he and his colleagues went to interview the seven activists (who he calls the Magnificent Seven for their courage and steadfastness in the face of government brutality) paints a disturbing picture of what human rights defenders fighting against political oppression endure.

“He ordered me to bend my head, and I felt a violent blow on the back of my skull. I don’t know what instrument he used, but I can still feel the pain.

“I wondered what the time was, and how long we had been there.

“I thought of the courage of the young people who have been subjected to worse brutality than this over the last two years since the anti-government demonstrations began. Some of them will carry the scars resulting from the police beatings for the rest of their lives.”

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