New York, June 13, 2012--Authorities in Angola's enclave of Cabinda must immediately launch an investigation into the robbery at the home of an independent journalist on Sunday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Unidentified assailants ransacked the house of José Manuel Gimbi, a correspondent of the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Voice of America and a human rights lawyer, at around 4 p.m., when no one was at home, the station reported. The assailants stole items related to the journalist's work, including two computers, an external hard drive, a voice recorder, two USB sticks, and a bag containing important documents related to his work, Arão Tempo, a lawyer and Gimbi's mentor, told CPJ. VOA reported that the assailants also stole some personal items, including books and jewelry belonging to Gimbi's wife.
Although the motive for the attack was unclear, local journalists told CPJ they believed the assailants were targeting items used by Gimbi for his professional work. VOA reported that Gimbi had not reported any threats recently. The journalist filed a complaint with Cabinda's police Criminal Investigation office, but officers had not yet visited the house, Tempo told CPJ.
Gimbi is one of only two independent journalists in Cabinda, a volatile region where the government is locked in a conflict with a low-level separatist insurgency. He had recently interviewed members of opposition party UNITA about their objection to proposed government amendments to the electoral law ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled in August. Last week, he reported from Abuja on a forum of experts and civil society members, where participants raised issues that included wealth disparity in oil-rich countries like Angola.
Gimbi has been targeted for his independent reporting and human rights advocacy in the past, according to CPJ research. In August 2011, gunmen raided his home and threatened unspecified harm against him, CPJ research shows.
"We condemn the attack of the home of José Manuel Gimbi, who is the ongoing target of threats and persecution for his independent reporting in Cabinda," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "We hold authorities in Cabinda responsible for Gimbi's well-being and call on them to explore all leads in the case, including a political motive linked to the sensitive nature of the journalist's work."
Romão Macário Lembe, the vice-governor of Cabinda, told CPJ today that he was not aware of the burglary. "I have not heard anything, either on radio or in the independent newspapers. There are things that people say on the airwaves of VOA that are not true. My first reaction is to cast doubt on your information. But I am not saying that it is false, either. I am going to try to find out." He also suggested the robbery could have been a random act. "Here, robberies are numerous. The robbers come from neighboring countries and go back there. We lead investigations, but we never find them."