The New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Monday’s raid by officers from Angola’s criminal investigation police confiscated 20 computers from the newsroom of the weekly Folha 8, which was founded in 1995 and has often been critical of the government.
“The seizure of Folha 8’s computers is a crude act of censorship meant to silence one of the few remaining independent news outlets in Angola,” Mohamed Keita, CPJ’s Africa Advocacy coordinator, said in a statement.
Calls to Angola’s national police and public prosecutor, and to Dos Santos’ ruling MPLA party went unanswered.
The Portuguese news agency Lusa cited Folha 8 editor William Tonet as saying the raid was part of a criminal investigation started by the authorities in December after the paper published a photo-montage lampooning Dos Santos.
“We do not know how we will produce the next edition, but be it by hand or some other way, it will be on sale at the stands,” Tonet was quoted by Lusa as saying.
The montage, which also featured images of Vice President Fernando Piedade Dias dos Santos and the president’s top military adviser, appeared initially on the Internet and showed manipulated pictures of the trio with signs saying “qualified theft of valuables” hanging from their necks.
Publication of the picture montage was heavily criticised by the Media Ministry, which said the newspaper had abused freedom of speech and attacked the reputation of Dos Santos and state officials ahead of a parliamentary election later this year.
The Angolan government runs official state TV, radio and newspapers that put out uncritical reports on policy and positive portraits of the country’s leaders.
Human rights organisations have long accused the government of Dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979, of avoiding public scrutiny, repressing protest and dissent and mismanaging the country’s oil revenues.
Folha 8 editor Tonet is also a lawyer and has represented protesters from a youth movement charged with disturbing the peace during an anti-government rally in September.
He was sentenced to a year in prison or a fine of $100,000 by a court in October for defaming Dos Santos’ top military adviser and three other senior officials in articles published in Folha 8. Tonet, who is not in custody, has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.
Political tension is rising ahead of the election, with the opposition and the government squabbling over the re-appointment of the head of the country’s elections committee and accusing each other of trying to de-stabilise preparations for the vote.
Several anti-government protests in the last year have ended in clashes between demonstrators and police and pro-government supporters. In a small protest on Saturday, at least three demonstrators were hurt when pro-government supporters wielding sticks moved in to disperse them. Reuters