New York, October 3, 2000 — An Angolan journalist who disappeared during a media tour of refugee camps in western Zambia was found dead early today in the Zambezi River near the town of Senanga, according to Zambian police authorities quoted in international news reports.
Antonio Paciencia, an editor at the state-operated Radio Nacional de Angola (RNA), was traveling with a group of journalists from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who were visiting refugee camps on Zambia’s border with Angola. The media tour was organized and hosted by representatives of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Paciencia’s body showed no signs of physical violence, and Zambian police authorities say they are investigating the circumstances of his death.
Diplomatic sources quoted in a Reuters report noted that as a journalist working for a government station Paciencia had taken a risk by visiting a camp dominated by supporters of Jonas Savimbi, the leader of the Angolan UNITA rebel group.
UNHCR spokesman Fidelis Swai said Paciencia had disappeared last Saturday September 30 at the Nangweshi refugee camp near the town of Senanga, in the vicinity of the Angolan border. (The Nangweshi refugee camp shelters more than 11,000 Angolans who fled the fighting in Angola’s Kwandu Kubangu province.)
Paciencia, who had earlier told UNHCR authorities that he did not want to return on a scheduled flight back to the Zambian capital of Lusaka, had been behaving in a “strange manner” for several days, according to a delegation participant interviewed by CPJ. Paciencia claimed that he was being followed and that people were “spying on him.”
“CPJ is greatly saddened by Paciencia’s death,” said Yves Sorokobi, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator. “We urge the Zambian authorities and the UNHCR to work closely together in a thorough and speedy investigation to determine the cause of his death.”
CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper and board member Peter Arnett, along with journalists and representatives from several international human rights organizations, are currently visiting Angola as part of a mission to assess press freedom conditions in the country.