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Angola13 May 2009

In continuing harassment, newspaper editor forbidden to leave country

Reporters Without Borders condemns the foreign travel ban that has been placed on William Tonet, the editor of the independent Luanda-based biweekly Folha 8 (F8), whose passport was seized when he tried to cross by land into Namibia on 9 May. Tonet has been harassed by the authorities ever since the newspaper’s creation in 1995.

“The persecution of Tonet because of the stories he publishes is unacceptable and must stop at once,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This latest incident is symptomatic of the lack of press freedom in Angola and we find it disturbing. We call on the authorities to guarantee Tonet’s right to complete freedom of movement.”

Members of the Immigration Department (SME) seized Tonet’s passport and notified him that he was on a list of persons forbidden to leave the country when he arrived at the Santa Clara border post, 40 km south of Onjiva (in Cunene province), on 9 May with the aim of entering Namibia. He hopes to recover his passport by filing a complaint against the SME.

Tonet said he thought the foreign travel ban was the result of a 4 April story about the murders of Guinea-Bissau President João Bernardo “Nino” Vieira and armed forces chief of staff Gen. Tagmé Na Waié, which was accompanied by photos of their bodies taken in the morgue after autopsy and warned of the danger of a similar coup attempt in Angola.

As a result of the story, Gen. João Maria Moreira de Sousa, the prosecutor general, charged Tonet and one of his reporters, Arlindo Santana, with “abusing press freedom by violating the principle of respect for the dead” and “inciting, through the media, criminal practices or the condoning of criminal activity.” When charged, they were not told they were forbidden to leave the country.

In 2007, F8 broke the story of the dismissal and arrest of former intelligence chief Gen. Fernando Garcia Miala, who was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison. It was the judge in charge of that case, Gen. Moreira de Sousa, who as prosecutor general has brought the charges against Tonet now.

At total of 69 complaints have been brought against Tonet and his newspaper since 1995.

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