Marcelino Intupe
Marcelino Intupe, a lawyer and political commentator for the privately owned broadcaster Radio Bombolom, was abducted from his home and assaulted by a group of men including the head of security for Guinea-Bissau’s president on November 29, 2022. (Marcelino Intupe)

Guinea-Bissau presidential security officer attacks radio commentator Marcelino Intupe

On November 29, 2022, a group of men including the head of security for Guinea-Bissau’s president abducted Marcelino Intupe from his home and assaulted him, according to media reports and Intupe, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. 

Earlier that day, during his weekly commentary slot on the current affairs radio show Alô Guiné (Hello Guinea), Intupe, a lawyer and political commentator for the privately owned broadcaster Radio Bombolom, had criticized a rally attended by Tcherno Bari, the head of the president’s security force, Intupe told CPJ. He said he had hosted a legal commentary segment on that show for about four years, and discussed a variety of legal cases in Guinea Bissau.

At about 6:30 p.m. Bari, who was armed and dressed in plainclothes, arrived at Intupe’s home on the outskirts of the capital city of Bissau with four other men in police uniforms, Intupe said. 

Bari approached Intupe with one of the men and demanded to know who had told him to “make the video,” an apparent reference to the program earlier that day, a video of which was posted to Facebook.

Intupe and his family members resisted the men’s attempts to shove him into a van, and Bari hit Intupe’s wife with a rifle and summoned the other men to assist.

“They beat me with the rifle in the head, and I started to bleed” Intupe told CPJ. “Then they managed to grab my arms and legs to drag me into the van.”

He told CPJ that the men drove him around for about five minutes while his family followed the vehicle, honking their horn and screaming to raise alarm. The men then stopped the van and took Intupe onto the street, where they photographed him, grabbed his arms, and kicked him repeatedly.

“They kept asking who had sent me to comment on air,” he said. Intupe told CPJ he received stitches for a head wound at the Main Military Hospital in Bissau.

Contacted by phone, Bari told CPJ the justice system would deal with the situation and refused to comment further.

Later that day, President Umaro Sissoco Embaló condemned the attack on his official Facebook page and called for a thorough investigation of the “barbaric act of violence” against Intupe. However, Embaló later walked back that statement, Intupe told CPJ.

On December 5, following a press conference in which Intupe identified Bari as the leader of the attack and noted that Embaló had walked back his condemnation, armed men in two vehicles and a motorcycle arrived at Intupe’s home, fired gunshots at the house, and fled the scene, he said.

Intupe immediately went into hiding. When men arrived at his home a third time on December 9, he fled the country, and remains abroad for fear for his safety, he told CPJ. 

After he fled Guinea-Bissau, unidentified men followed Intupe’s wife’s car for more than an hour and “kept making dangerous maneuvers to identify the passengers,” he said.

Nicolau Dautarim, the host and producer of Alô Guiné, told CPJ via messaging app that he believed the attacks on Intupe may also be tied to his on-air comments about men accused of an attempted military coup in February 2022. Intupe is representing some of the people detained for alleged involvement in the coup.

Dautarim told CPJ that “intimidation and fear are standard weapons” used by the government against criticism, and that he himself has been a victim because of the content of his program. “In 2021, I had to go into hiding twice after receiving threats and information that I would be abducted. It happens often.”

When CPJ contacted presidential spokesman Óscar Barbosa and asked whether Bari had been suspended pending an investigation, he asked via message app that the request for comment be sent via email. Barbosa did not respond to CPJ’s follow-up requests for comment.