Journalists File Complaint Against the Police

Journalists Rafael Marques de Morais and Alexandre Solombe on Monday filed a formal complaint against the Angolan Rapid Intervention Police (PIR), after they were detained, physically mistreated and received death threats on September 20.

In the complaint, addressed to Attorney General João Maria Moreira de Sousa, the journalists also denounced the damage done to their equipment, including cameras and mobile phones, as an attack on the freedom of the press.

Marques and Solombe, together with Voice of America correspondent Coque Mukuta, were seized by the police while interviewing a group of youth activists who had just been released from custody on court orders. The eight youths had been arrested the previous day during an attempted demonstration in Luanda.

The journalists began interviewing the youths in the street, about 300 meters from the courthouse where a judge had ordered their release. While they were speaking, 45 PIR members surrounded them, and arrested the three journalists and seven of the eight youths.

In the complaint to the Attorney General, Marques and Solombe state that they were stamped on violently by police acting on the orders of a superior officer, and threatened with being shot dead.

“The ease with which policemen and officers spoke of shooting should be of grave concern to society over what it is that leads PIR members and their superiors to trivialize the lives of those in their charge,” the complainants argue.

The youths were all part of the self-denominated Revolutionary Movement, an informal network that has organized demonstrations around issues of social justice since early 2011. The demonstration that they had organized for September 19 was confronted with a heavy police presence at the intended location, Largo de Independência, in Luanda.

The journalists’ detention was strongly condemned by the Angolan Journalists’ Union and various international human rights and press freedom organizations. The journalists were released on Friday evening, the day of their arrest, but the youths were held in custody until Monday, when a second court hearing resulted in them being released once again.