Journalist Banned from Practicing in Cunene Province

On 7 January, the provincial government of Cunene informed journalist Paulo Kuza that he was to cease all professional activity in the province for an indeterminate length of time.

According to Mr Kuza, the provincial director of Information, Faustino Ndasuamba, handed him the ban during a meeting they had.

Last December, the journalist joined the staff of Rádio Despertar, the only radio station to openly criticize the government. The station has been transmitting on FM to the greater Luanda area since 2006, as part of the Peace Agreement between the government and the former rebel movement UNITA.

Stunned by the information Rádio Despertar called the provincial director to confirm the ban.

Maka Angola heard a recording of the telephone conversation between the deputy director of Rádio Despertar, Queirós Anastácio Chilúvia, and Faustino Ndasuamba.

The provincial director confirmed that he had held a meeting with Mr Kuza.  In a language reminiscent of arbitrariness of the old one party-system, Mr Ndasuamba had informed the journalist that “I work in a chain of command. I work with the deputy governor”. The director further explained that the deputy governor José do Nascimento Vayelengue answers to the governor, António Didalewa.

“If I told him to wait [for an official evaluation] he has to wait [for] authorisation from my boss, who is the deputy governor for Social Affairs. He [Paulo Kuza] cannot work”, reiterated Mr Ndasuamba

Mr Chilúvia reminded the director that the ban was in violation of the constitutional provisions of freedom of expression and of the press, and that the journalist did not needr his authorisation to work.

“No, no, I have my imitations. He [Paulo Kuza] cannot work. I have a boss; I do not have the authority to allow him to work”, justified the representative of the provincial government.

Mr Chilúvia insisted: “does he [Paulo Kuza] need your permission to work at his profession?”

“No. But it’s not up to me to give him permission, that’s up to my boss [the deputy governor]”, the official said.

The deputy director of Rádio Despertar mentioned the Constitution and the Media Law to clarify that it is not within the remit of the provincial government to authorise or to ban a journalist from working.

Mr Faustino Ndasuamba had another astounding argument up his sleeve. He brusquely explained that “in line with an administrative regulation [Paulo Kuza] cannot work”.

When asked about the referred administrative regulation and its legal standing, he ended the conversation and asked that he be called at another time.

The next day, on 8 January, Queirós Chilúvia placed another call to the provincial director of Information. The latter reiterated the statements of the previous day, and sharply claimed: “I am carrying out orders from above”.

Maka Angola spoke on the phone with Mr Ndasuamba, who gave his version of the events. “It’s a lie. The journalist was never banned. He must see the governor first, to explain himself”, he said.

According to the provincial director, Rádio Despertar is trying to “make up political facts. The deputy director of the radio station is responsible for this confusion. He is bamboozling me with all his questions. And he threatened me that he was going to turn this into news.”

Meanwhile, Mr Ndasuamba insisted that “he [Paulo Kuza] needs to wait a while. Can he not wait for a few days to talk to the deputy governor and the governor?”

“It is these people [from Rádio Despertar] who are causing all the problems. Alright, I will take responsibility. He [the journalist] must not publish anything until he has had this meeting”, he said.

According to Alexandre Solombe, the president of MISA-Angola, “Cunene is the worst place of this disguised dictatorship”. The former Member of Parliament said that “what is going on is a farce. The provincial government’s administrative decision has absolutely no basis in either the Media Law or the Constitution.”

Mr Solombe stated that ridiculous acts of censorship are a regular occurrence. “The difference this time is that the denouncement has been made public”, he said.

Having worked for several years in Cunene with NGOs, Mr Paulo Kuza took a basic three-month course in journalism, organised by the National Institute of Employment and Professional Training (INEFOP). Upon completion last September, Paulo Kuza did an internship in Rádio Despertar, and started work last December.

All told, he sent about five reports on political intolerance in the province; he reported on a complaint about flooding by stall-holders in a market; and about political meetings held by the opposition.