15 September 2010

First journalist murdered since 2001

Neighbours and friends found Angolan journalist Alberto Graves Chakussanga at his home with a bullet in his back on 5 September. The radio journalist worked for Radio Despertar, a station that has been critical of the ruling MPLA government, report the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Chakussanga hosted a weekly Umbundu-language news call-in programme on private radio Radio Despertar. The station was launched in 2006 as a result of a peace accord between the MPLA and the opposition UNITA in 2002, when UNITA ended its armed rebellion. His murder has "come at a time of tension between the MPLA and UNITA," says RSF.

His programme was popular among the Ovimbundu, Angola's largest ethnic group and a critical support base for the former UNITA rebellion. The MPLA politburo accused Radio Despertar of repeatedly inciting the population to commit "civil disobedience" in support of UNITA. In addition, the communication ministry threatened legal action against the station.

But local journalists say the station has been critical of both UNITA and the authorities, and that the government electronically interferes with the station's frequency in parts of Luanda.

Days before Chakussanga's murder, the MPLA issued a warning to citizens who "conspire" with foreigners to denigrate President José Eduardo dos Santos and his government.

And just before his death, Chakussanga had left his pregnant wife at a hospital where she gave birth later the same day to a baby boy.

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