Two journalists arrested

New York, June 27, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is disturbed by the recent arrests of João de Barros, publisher and editor of the independent daily Correio de Bissau, and Nilson Mendonca, editor at the state-run Rádio Difusão Nacional (RDN). Both journalists have been released.

De Barros was arrested in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, on June 17, following his appearance on a talk show on the independent Radio Bombolom. During an on-air interview, de Barros said that recent rumors of coup plots against President Kumba Yala were designed to divert attention away from rampant government corruption. De Barros also called Yala’s recent military threat against neighboring Gambia, which the president has accused of supporting the alleged insurgents, “pathetic.”

Interior Ministry official Baciro Dabo told RDN that de Barros was arrested both for his radio comments and for unspecified “other things.”

According to the Portuguese news agency LUSA, on June 18, de Barros went on hunger strike while in detention. He was interrogated and released the next day with the understanding that he is required to report to the Interior Ministry every 10 days.

Mendonca was arrested on June 20 following the broadcast of a news report earlier that day on RDN, in which he claimed that President Yala was going to apologize to Gambian authorities for having accused them of supporting insurgents in Guinea Bissau.

Police branded the report “false information” and interrogated Mendonca about his sources. The journalist was released after 24 hours in detention, according to the website of the Portuguese public broadcaster Empresa Pública da Radiodifusão (RDP).