06.20.2002 - Update
Joao de Barros, editor of the independent daily Correio de Bissau, was released in the evening of 19 June after being questioned by an examining magistrate. He is required to report to the court every ten days. His layer confirmed that the journalist had been questioned in relation to criticism he had voiced on the independent radio station Radio Bombolom.
Reporters Without Borders has expressed its serious concern following the detention of Joao de Barros, publication director of the private daily "Correio de
Bissau". After his incarceration, the journalist announced that he was
beginning a hunger strike. "This journalist is the victim of constant
harassment from the authorities. He is either imprisoned or his newspaper is
closed each time he criticises the president or the government," noted Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard. The organisation sent a letter to President
Kumba Yala, asking him to take the measures necessary to ensure the
journalist’s immediate release. "To the best of our knowledge, Joao de
Barros did nothing more than exercise his right to express himself freely.
Nothing can justify his detention. It is a serious human rights violation,"
According to information collected by Reporters Without Borders, security officers arrested de Barros on 17 June 2002. He was immediately taken to Bissau’s central prison. The journalist announced the next day that he was beginning a hunger strike, which he planned to continue "until light is shed" on the case. He is
accused of having criticised the head of state on the private radio station
Radio Bombolom. The journalist had described a speech given by President
Yala as "catastrophic." During his address, Yala had accused the Gambian
authorities of plotting a coup against him. According to de Barros, the coup
rumours can be explained by the "wasting of public funds," which are more
often used to purchase officials’ "luxury automobiles" than to fight the
extreme poverty of the population.
De Barros was released in the evening on 19 June, after being heard by an
examining judge. He must appear in court every ten days. His lawyer
confirmed that the journalist’s arrest was linked to his critical remarks on
Reporters Without Borders recalls that de Barros was previously detained for 48 hours in June 2001, after publishing an article entitled "Kumba Yala and Corruption". In October, the state prosecutor also ordered the closure of his newspaper,
"Diario de Bissau". De Barros had subsequently decided to relaunch "Correio de Bissau", which had closed five years earlier.