Angolan radio presenter gunned down

New York, September 8, 2010–Following Sunday’s murder in Angola of Alberto Graves Chakussanga, a radio journalist with a station critical of the ruling MPLA government, authorities must conduct a thorough and transparent investigation exploring all possible leads and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Chakussanga’s neighbors and relatives found the journalist lying in a corridor of his home in Luanda’s Viana district with a bullet in his back early Sunday morning, according to local journalists. He had been the presenter of a weekly, Umbundu-language news call-in program on private Radio Despertar.

The motive for the killing was not immediately clear. Colleagues told CPJ that the only item missing from the house was a bottle of cooking gas. No arrests have been made.

“We condemn the murder of Alberto Chakussanga,” said Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on Angolan authorities to consider every possible motive for this killing including his journalism.”

Chakussanga had a following with the Ovimbundu, Angola’s largest ethnic group who originate from the south of the country, a stronghold of former rebel movement UNITA, according to local journalists. Radio Despertar was launched in December 2006, under the terms of a 2002 peace deal between the ruling MPLA and UNITA. 

In a press conference on Tuesday, Rui Falcão, secretary of information of the MPLA politburo accused Radio Despertar of repeatedly inciting the population to commit “civil disobedience” since Monday in support of the opposition former rebel movement UNITA, according to news reports. The accusations were based on interviews and commentary that criticized the government’s performance. In a press statement today, Radio Despertar rejected the allegations as “unfounded and slanderous,” and asserted its editorial independence. Local journalists said the station has been critical of both UNITA and the authorities, and they allege that the government electronically interferes with its frequency in parts of Luanda.

Chakussanga, 32, was also a lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Agostinho Neto state university and at the Angolan police academy, according to local journalists. A few hours before his death, Chakussanga had left his pregnant wife at a hospital where she gave birth later that day to a baby boy, colleagues said.