At least three journalists were assaulted by police and briefly detained this week while covering the release of seven individuals who were arrested during a protest on Thursday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports, citing local sources.
Protesters staged a demonstration against what they called the authoritarian regime of President José Eduardo dos Santos, the reports said.
Police officers of Angola’s Rapid Intervention Unit then surrounded prominent journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, freelance journalist Alexandre Neto and Voice of America reporter Coque Mukuta outside a courthouse in the capital Luanda, the media watchdog said.
Marques de Morais, a well-known investigative reporter and human rights activist, is also the editor of independent news website Maka Angola. He told CPJ that the officers ordered them to lie on the ground, and then shouted threats at them while kicking them repeatedly.
He said he was also hit on the head with an unknown object. Luckily, they did not report any severe injuries.
Neto told CPJ that officers put them in a car and drove them to police headquarters, where they were released with an apology after five hours.
Marques said police returned the confiscated equipment, but destroyed a camera worth US$2 000.
Secretary of State for Human Rights António Bento Bembe told CPJ that he was not aware of the journalists’ detentions. Angolan National Police deputy commander Paulo de Almeida declined to comment.
“The brutal actions of the Angolan police were clearly meant to intimidate these journalists and obstruct their reporting,” CPJ Africa advocacy coordinator Mohamed Keita said in a statement.
“We call on Angolan authorities to punish the officers responsible and ensure that journalists are allowed to report freely.”
However, Keita’s call will likely go unheeded by the police force, who have been on the ruling MPLA’s payroll for several decades and have acted as a ‘guardian angel’ of the regime ever since.
Dos Santos, a merciless dictator, http://moonofthesouth.com/africas-long-serving-presidents/, in power since 1979, has seen his rule being challenged by both the independent media and revolutionary movements of disgruntled youths fed-up of state corruption and dictatorship, and seeking change.
Angola is Africa’s second-biggest oil producer behind Nigeria. The country also boasts massive wealth comprising diamonds, oil, gold, timber and many other natural resources.
But most Angolans live in extreme poverty, with less than US$1.25 a day. Close to 10 journalists have been killed in Angola in the past decade, according to CPJ figures.
Photo: Over-zealous Angola Police in full force. Credit: Reuters