Arresting the Short and Shabby Journalist
In a repressive state with the veneer of democratically elected institutions, such as Angola, the ways in which abuse is rationalized can sound like a parody.
Journalist Coque Mukuta, 28, experienced such a parody on January 4, 2013, while interviewing women street vendors about how they had been arbitrarily beaten by the police while selling in the streets of Viana, in the outskirts of Luanda. “I personally saw, while doing my work, six police officers severely lashing women street vendors with electric wires with the plastic insulation removed (fios eléctricos descascados),” said Mukuta.
Rather than leaving the area, the journalist, who is the correspondent for the Portuguese service of Voice of America, remained adamant in finishing the recording of his third interview on site.
“They [the six police officers] came straight at me, hauled me off into their vehicle, confiscated my equipment, and slapped me several times, and told me I would be thrown in jail,” he said.
At the municipal command of the National Police in Viana, the journalist got back his tape recorder and one of his mobile phones, while waiting for the public prosecutor to hear his case. According to the journalist, the officer in charge returned the material to avoid getting them mixed up in the bundles of confiscated materials they had in store.
“So, I used my phone to send an urgent text message to the personal phone of the commander-general of the National Police, commissar Ambrósio de Lemos, on my arrest”, explained Coque Mukuta.
Eventually, the top police commander saw his message and called his subordinates in Viana for a briefing on what was happening.
And, this is where the story takes a new turn. “The officer in charge of operations came to me, informed me of the commander’s phone call and told me that I was free, after holding me for five hours.”
“He then told me that I look too shabby, I am too small [1,62 m] and simple to be recognized as a journalist by his men,” said Coque Mukuta. “He told me that I have chosen a risky profession and, therefore, wished me more courage in bearing the risks,” remarked the journalist.
That was it. The shabby, short and simple journalist, according to police profiling, walked free.