Lobby condemns raid at Angola's weekly Folha 8

Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has ruled over the southern African country since 1979. AFRICA REVIEW | FILE 

The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned Monday's Angolan police raid at the independent weekly Folha 8.

The raid came as the weekly was under investigations over a satirical photo montage.

Officers confiscated all of Folha 8's computers, effectively crippling the operations of one of the country's two remaining independent publications.

About 15 officers of the Angolan National Directorate of Criminal Investigations arrived at the Luanda offices of Folha 8 at around 1pm (local time), the paper's editor-in-chief, Mr Fernando Baxi, told CPJ

The officials took away about 20 computers from the newsroom, Mr António Setas, the paper's deputy director, said.

Officials also forced Mr Baxi to remove the battery of his cell phone during the seizure to prevent him from communicating with anyone, Mr Setas said.

In an interview with the Portugal-based news agency Lusa Tuesday, Folha 8 editor William Tonet said the raid was connected to a public prosecutor's December 2011 criminal investigation into the paper's re-publication of an Internet photo montage ,lampooning President José Eduardo dos Santos, Vice-President Fernando Piedade Dias dos Santos, and Gen Manuel Helder Vieira Dias Júnior Kopelipa, the military adviser to the President.

Senior officials

No formal charges in the investigation have been filed, but the newspaper's computers could be used as evidence against them in the case, local journalists told CPJ.

CPJ obtained a copy of the search and seizure warrant signed by Public Prosecutor João Vemba Coca, which called on Angolan police to seize all computers and tools used to commit "acts that constitute the crime of outrage against the state, the person of the President, and the organs of the executive".

Folha 8 has reported on government corruption and has also covered the recent anti-government protests challenging President dos Santos' 32 years of rule, according to CPJ research.

Angolan police spokesman Carmo Neto did not immediately return CPJ's calls for comment.

"The seizure of Folha 8'scomputers is a crude act of censorship meant to silence one of the few remaining independent news outlets in Angola," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita.

"Satire is not an outrage against the state-it's an important part of robust debate in a free society. We call on authorities to return Folha 8'sequipment at once and put an end to this politically motivated investigation."

Journalists at Folha 8 have been targeted before.

In October 2010, authorities handed Mr Tonet a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of $105,000 (10 million kwanzas), which he was still appealing.

The journalist had written stories alleging corruption and abuse of power by five senior officials close to President dos Santos, according to local journalists.    

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