Mozambique: Angola Apologises for Mistreatment of Journalists
Angola Apologises for Mistreatment of Journalists
Maputo — Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has formally apologised to the Mozambican authorities for the ill-treatment of two Mozambican journalists who were denied entry to the country in August.
On Monday, Angolan Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti delivered the apology to Mozambican President Armando Guebuza. After the audience with Guebuza, Chikoti told reporters that the message gave a detailed explanation of the circumstances under which the two journalists, Joana Macie of the daily paper "Noticias", and Manuel Cossa of the private weekly "Magazine Independente", were summarily deported from Luanda airport, despite the fact that they had been granted visas by the Angolan embassy in Maputo.
The journalists had travelled to Angola via South Africa to attend a workshop on economic reporting and gender, organised by the Luanda Journalists Training Centre, and the South African based NGO, Gender Links.
Five Mozambican journalists attended the event, all of them with identical entry visas. But only three - Herminia Machel of the publicly-owned television station TVM, Orlando Ngovene of Radio Mozambique and Francisco Carmona of the independent weekly "Savana" - were allowed into the country.
Macie and Cossa were bundled, at gunpoint, onto a flight back to South Africa and were not even allowed to pick up their luggage. The immigration officials refused to give any explanation for the deportations.
The two journalists were reunited with their confiscated passports at Johannesburg airport, but not with their luggage. They found that their entry visas had been crudely cancelled in red ink.
The Mozambican Journalists Union (SNJ) strongly condemned the "unwarranted acts of hubris and arrogance" of the immigration authorities, and demanded an explanation. The fact that the two journalists were threatened with firearms, the SNJ added, was "contrary to the spirit of brotherhood that has been fostered between the two countries".
The Angolan embassy in Maputo confirmed that it had granted visas to Macie and Cossa, of exactly the same type as the visas granted to the three journalists who were allowed to enter. The embassy said it was taken by surprised and had received no notification from the Luanda immigration services.
Chikoti said "we regret the way these journalists were retreated". The immigration official concerned had the right to deal with people entering the country "in accordance with the law", and could authorise their entry or not. But his cancellation of the entry visas in the two passports was "an excess of zeal".
He added that the incident occurred at a time of heightened security, ahead of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) heads of state summit held on 17-18 August. But this, Chikoti said, did not justify the ill-treatment that the journalists had suffered.
"This was an unfortunate incident", the Angolan Minister added, and one which should not be allowed "to cast shadows over our relations with Mozambique". The message from Jose Eduardo dos Santos had therefore "stressed the good relations of cooperation between the two countries that must be preserved".
"As politicians, we have to work to maintain these good relations", he said. "We want better training of immigration officials, because when one works in an environment of redoubled security, there must always be the necessary coordination".
Chikoti said Angola is now receiving around 1,000 visa requests a day, notably from South Africa, Mozambique, Brazil and Portugal. The challenge facing the Angolan immigration authorities was "to modernize procedures, reduce red tape and waiting times, but without neglecting security".
"We are now facilitating the issuing of visas for some socio-professional categories, and are issuing visas on line between Maputo and Luanda, to allow the easy circulation of people, not only within SADC, but also in the world in general", he said.
Chikoti made no mention of the easiest way to allow people to circulate within SADC - which is to suppress entry visas altogether. Most SADC member states have now dropped entry visa requirements for citizens of other SADC countries for stays of up to 30 days. But Angola has refused to sign visa waiver agreements with its fellow SADC members.
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