Armed men threaten VOA office in Luanda

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New York, June 23, 2000
— Four armed men dressed in Angolan army uniforms attacked the Luanda office of the Voice of America (VOA) on the night of June 21, according to CPJ sources in Luanda.

The intruders made two attempts to force their way into the Voice of America’s Angola Project office, first at three a.m. local time and again at approximately one p.m. After threatening security guards at gunpoint, the men succeeded in getting through the gates, but were unable to gain access to the newsroom. No VOA personnel were hurt in the incident, and no material damage was reported.

It remains unclear what motivated the attack. While this is the first such attack against the offices of the U.S. government-funded VOA during its four-year old operation in Luanda, several journalists from the VOA and other media have been assaulted, threatened, and harassed in recent months, according to CPJ’s research.

In March of this year, for example, Angolan journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques was tried and sentenced to six months in jail for writing a July 1999 article that accused the Angolan president of corruption. The sentence was suspended following an appeal by Marques’ defense lawyers.

On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, CPJ named Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos to its annual list of the “Ten Worst Enemies of the Press.”

“As journalists, we will not be intimidated nor will we be silenced by these actions in Angola or anywhere else,” said VOA director Sanford Ungar in a statement released on June 23. “The free flow of information and news is vital to the development and welfare of any society.”

In a statement made public on June 24, the Angolan minister of social communications Hedrik Vaal Neto blamed the raid on VOA on “subversive forces” who disguised as army officers to discredit the government of Angola.