Angolan authorities should thoroughly investigate all instances of the harassment of journalists ahead of the country’s August 24 elections, and ensure that members of the press can cover the campaign safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
Since July 1, at least three journalists have been harassed or threatened while reporting on campaign events, according to media reports and journalists who spoke to CPJ.
“With elections just a month away and with political tensions rising, political leaders in Angola must publicly commit to protecting press freedom and ensure that their supporters do the same,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in Durban, South Africa. “Reporters must have unfettered access to election rallies and events, and must be able to work safely and without being threatened or harmed.”
On July 1, supporters of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party harassed journalists covering a rally by the opposition National Patriotic Alliance party in the Viana suburb of Luanda, the capital, according to media reports and those journalists, who spoke to CPJ.
One man wearing an MPLA t-shirt yelled at Isabel Makitoko, a reporter for the privately owned online news broadcaster TV Maiombe, saying she was not allowed to film in the area, and lunged to attack her, according to António Sapalo, a reporter for privately owned news website Correio da Kianda, who was at the scene, and spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
The man attempted to slap Makitoko in the face, but Sapalo stepped between them, at which point MPLA supporters punched Sapalo on his arm and back, and pushed and shoved him, he said.
Sapolo asked the man if he felt no shame for trying to assault a woman, but the man replied that he had no problem doing so, Sapalo said. Makitoko said the man also threatened to break her phone.
Capita Inga, an editor for privately owned news website TV N’Zinga who was at the scene, told CPJ by phone that he and his colleagues were clearly identifiable as journalists because of their press vests, press cards, and cameras with the logos of their outlets.
TV Maiombe camera operator Amândio Silva told CPJ by message app that although he was not attacked, the situation was “very threatening.” He said police simply watched and did not intervene, claiming they were waiting for orders from their superiors.
MPLA spokesperson Rui Falcão told CPJ via messaging app that he was not aware of any incident involving MPLA supporters in Viana and doubted that they would be involved, adding, “anyone can put on an MPLA shirt, but all MPLA militants are bound by the rules of state and should be judged if they cross them.”
Separately, at an election rally by the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) party, on July 16, security personnel for party leader Adalberto Costa Júnior roughly grabbed journalist Wilson Capemba, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ by phone and posted about the incident on Facebook.
“I was held by the neck, arms, waist, and legs. I was completely immobilized until the leader of the party, Adalberto Júnior, yelled to his security people to let me go,” Capemba, a reporter for the Roman Catholic Church-owned broadcaster Radio Ecclesia, told CPJ.
Adalberto Júnior apologized and granted him the interview, the journalist said, adding that, even though he was unharmed he felt “so shaken that he was unable to interview the opposition leader properly.”
UNITA General Secretary Álvaro Daniel told CPJ in a phone interview that security officers had no intention of harming Capemba, saying he was “let go as soon as he was identified as a journalist and he got to have his interview.”
When CPJ called police spokesperson Nestor Goubel, he said he did not have enough information on the attacks to comment.