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Saturday, 14 July, 2001, 05:46 GMT 06:46 UK
Free press threatened in Angola
Luanda city map showing Boavista and Miramar
By Justin Pearce in Luanda

The journalist and human rights activist, Rafael Marques, was detained by police in the Angolan capital Luanda on Friday while visiting people who had been forcibly removed from their homes.

It is the latest in a number of recent incidents in which journalists in Angola have been stopped in the course of their duties.

Rafael Marques and myself were stopped by the police while interviewing people in the resettlement camp at Viana, some 30 km (19 miles) from the Angolan capital.

The people who live there have all been forcibly removed from the inner city neighbourhood of Boavista, which the government says is unsafe for habitation, but which appears to have been earmarked for commercial development.

Living in tents

The people in the camp, who used to have houses in Boavista are now living in tents, with minimum facilities.

Many of them said they cannot afford the transport fares to get to work in the city.

We had been visiting the camp with a group of Angolan members of parliament and the lawyer acting on behalf of the Boavista community.

Mr Marques and I had become separated from the rest of the group and were talking to residents when we were stopped by two officers carrying automatic weapons.

Driven away

They escorted Mr Marques to a police truck, in which he was driven away.

He was released after about an hour, after the lawyer persuaded the local government official to request that the police let him go.

He said he had been threatened by the police and accused of being an agitator.

This was the third occasion in less than a week that Mr Marques and myself had been stopped by the authorities while covering the story of the removals from Boavista.

Detained without trial

Mr Marques, who had previously been detained without trial for several months because of his writing, now works for the Open Society Foundation, an international body which campaigns for human rights and freedom of expression.

Recently, he has argued that the media situation in Angola has been deteriorating, citing the murder of one journalist, the interrogation by police of another and government pressure on an independent Catholic radio station.

But also in Luanda today, Norberto Dos Santos, the information secretary of the ruling MPLA party, insisted that the press in Angola remained free.

He said though that journalists needed to seek permission from the authorities when covering certain stories.

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See also:

29 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
12 Oct 00 | Africa
Angola war 'threatens region'
26 Apr 00 | Africa
UN: Angola is on the brink
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