February 25, 2000
His Excellency José Eduardo dos Santos
President of the Republic of Angola
Gabinete da Presidencia da Republica
VIA FAX: + 244-2-392733/ 391476/ 331898
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing yet again to protest the continued detention of journalist Andre Domingos Mussamo, who has been held for 86 days in Cuanza Norte province amid increasing concerns for his safety and his health.
Police arrested Mussamo, chief editor of the Cuanza Norte provincial branch of Angolan National Radio and correspondent for the independent biweekly newspaper Folha 8, on December 2, 1999, in the provincial capital, N’Dalatando. A local source who saw Mussamo in prison told CPJ that police accused the editor of committing a “crime against state security” under Angola’s notorious Law 7/78.
The arrest was the result of an article by Mussamo that referred to a confidential letter written by the provincial governor to Your Excellency. Mussamo apparently saw the letter in the governor’s office. Although CPJ could not confirm the contents of the letter, it is known that Mussamo’s article was never published.
While it is unclear whether Mussamo has been formally charged, it appears that no trial date has been set. Mussamo has already been detained substantially longer than the maximum of 45 days allowed by Law 7/78. At the same time, local sources told CPJ that the prison director had threatened Mussamo’s life. It is also reported that Mussamo is not receiving adequate medical treatment for serious injuries sustained in a car accident before his detention. In addition, prison authorities have reduced the number of visits allowed to his wife.
CPJ considers Mussamo’s detention a direct violation of Angola’s obligations under national and international law. It also demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the international community’s efforts to remind Angola of its obligations. For example, a January 18 statement by Portugal, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America (the three states acting as official observers of the Angolan peace process) underscored “the important role of a free media in promoting Angola’s ongoing democratic development, and encourage[d] the Government of Angola to respect the free press and its practitioners.”
Furthermore, on February 17, 2000, the European Parliament passed a resolution on press freedom in Angola, in which it urged Your Excellency’s government to “comply strictly with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Angola’s obligations as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular with respect to its obligations to ensure freedom of expression and to afford due process to all persons charged with criminal offenses.” Your Excellency’s government responded to this resolution, in part, by stating that “there are no journalists in prison [in Angola].”
If Your Excellency still insists that there are no journalists in prison, CPJ would like clarification of Mussamo’s continued detention. Otherwise, we join with other international press freedom organizations in demanding his immediate and unconditional release.
We await Your Excellency’s response to this urgent matter.
Ann K. Cooper