Angolan police assault, detain journalists

New York, September 20, 2013–At least three journalists were assaulted by police and briefly detained today while covering the release of seven individuals who were arrested during a protest on Thursday, according to the journalists and news accounts. Protesters had staged a demonstration against what they called the authoritarian regime of President José Eduardo dos Santos, the reports said.

Police officers of Angola’s Rapid Intervention Unit surrounded Rafael Marques de Morais, a prominent journalist and editor of the independent news site Maka Angola; Alexandre Neto, a freelancer; and Coque Mukuta, a reporter for the U.S. government-funded international broadcaster Voice of America, outside a courthouse in the capital, Luanda. Marques told CPJ that the officers told them to lie on the ground, and then shouted threats at them while kicking them repeatedly. Marques said he was also hit on the head with an unknown object. They did not report any severe injuries.

Neto told CPJ that officers put them in a car and drove them to police headquarters, where they were released with an apology after five hours. Marques said that police returned the equipment they had confiscated, but that a camera that was worth US$2,000 had been destroyed.

Secretary of State for Human Rights António Bento Bembe told CPJ that he was not aware of the journalists’ detentions. The deputy commander of the Angolan National Police, chief commissioner Paulo de Almeida, declined to comment to CPJ.

“The brutal actions of the Angolan police were clearly meant to intimidate these journalists and obstruct their reporting,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on Angolan authorities punish the officers responsible and to ensure that journalists are allowed to report freely.”