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Angolan journalist with critical radio station gunned down in his home

Alberto Graves Chakussanga, an Angolan radio journalist with a station critical of the ruling MPLA government was gunned down on Sunday. Chakussanga's neighbours and relatives found the journalist lying in a corridor of his home in Luanda's Viana district with a bullet in his back early Sunday morning. He had been the presenter of a weekly, Umbundu-language news call-in programme on private Radio Despertar.

The motive for the killing was not immediately clear. Colleagues told New York-based press freedom group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that the only item missing from the house was a bottle of cooking gas. No arrests have been made. "We condemn the murder of Alberto Chakussanga," said Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "We call on Angolan authorities to consider every possible motive for this killing including his journalism."

Chakussanga had a following with the Ovimbundu, Angola's largest ethnic group who originate from the south of the country, a stronghold of former rebel movement UNITA. Radio Despertar was launched in December 2006, under the terms of a 2002 peace deal between the ruling MPLA and UNITA.

“While urging Angola’s politicians not to try to exploit or politicise this murder, we are struck by the fact that it has come at a time of tension between the MPLA and UNITA, which Radio Despertar tends to support,” Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said. “The investigators should therefore not rule out any hypothesis, including the possibility that it was linked to the victim’s political allegiances or work as a journalist.”

It said, “We call on the authorities to ensure that a thorough investigation sheds light on all the aspects of this killing, which has dealt an unexpected blow to freedom of expression in Angola.”

In a press conference on Tuesday, Rui Falcão, secretary of information of the MPLA politburo accused Radio Despertar of repeatedly inciting the population to commit "civil disobedience" since Monday in support of the opposition former rebel movement UNITA. The accusations were based on interviews and commentary that criticized the government's performance.

In a press statement, Radio Despertar rejected the allegations as "unfounded and slanderous," and asserted its editorial independence. Local journalists said the station has been critical of both UNITA and the authorities, and they allege that the government electronically interferes with its frequency in parts of Luanda.

Chakussanga, 32, was also a lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Agostinho Neto state university and at the Angolan police academy, according to local journalists. A few hours before his death, Chakussanga had left his pregnant wife at a hospital where she gave birth later that day to a baby boy, colleagues said.

Date posted: September 11, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 171