Emerson Gomes
Emerson Gomes, a presenter and trainee journalist at Djan-Djan Community Radio, was assaulted and detained by a Guinea-Bissau Coast Guard officer on July 21, 2021. (Emerson Gomes)

Guinea-Bissau coast guard officer assaults radio journalist Emerson Gomes

On July 21, 2021, a Guinea-Bissau Coast Guard officer assaulted and detained Emerson Gomes, a presenter and trainee journalist at Djan-Djan Community Radio in Bubaque, a town in the country’s Bijagos archipelago, accusing the outlet of spreading false news, according to a media report and Gomes, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

Gomes said he had tried to stop a brawl between partygoers after leaving a social function around 2 a.m. After someone identified Gomes as a journalist, a Coast Guard officer in the group questioned whether he was “a journalist of that radio that spreads false news,” Gomes said. Before he could reply, the officer, who he later found out was named Emitério Nagana, punched him in the eye, the journalist said. 

“I fell to the ground. I was bleeding quite badly from the wound to my eye. He continued to kick and punch me until people intervened,” Gomes told CPJ. Nagana, who was in civilian dress, proceeded to drag him “covered in blood” to the Bubaque Coast Guard station about 10 minutes away, said Gomes.

“I lost a shoe along the way and my mobile phone that I also use for work,” said Gomes, adding that Nagana kept him at the station and threatened to “beat me again if I made any noise.”

Gomes was released around 6 a.m., after the Bubaque Coast Guard’s chief of operations arrived and apologized to him, he told CPJ. CPJ was not able to confirm the name of the chief of operations.

Gomes was later treated first at Marcelino Banca Hospital in Bubaque for the injury to his eye and dizziness, according to the journalist and a medical report reviewed by CPJ. He was then sent to Simão Mendes National Hospital in Bissau, the capital, which referred him to a specialist in the city for further treatment.

Duarte Ialá, the Guinea-Bissau Coast Guard commander, confirmed by phone to CPJ that Nagana was detained for a week as punishment for his alleged attack on Gomes. The Coast Guard is still conducting an internal disciplinary inquiry into the incident, Ialá said, adding that those actions showed that Guinean authorities did not condone violence against journalists and citizens in general.

Gomes said Ialá apologized for the assault by Nagana, one of his subordinates, and provided 50,000 CFA francs (US$90) toward his medical costs. Gomes said he still had outstanding medical bills because of the beating, which he said “should never have happened and was an abuse of power.”