Africa, Media

Angola says sorry to Mozambique about barring of journalists

As the two governments kiss and make up over the deportation of Mozambican journalists from Angola earlier this year, we hope Angola will have cause for reflection on its treatment of its own journalists. By THERESA MALLINSON.

Back in mid-August, Mozambican journalists Joana Macie and Manuel Cossa were denied entry into Angola. They had been set to attend a workshop in Luanda. Angolan authorities claimed at the time that the two journalists lacked the requisite visas, but three other journalists with whom they were travelling were allowed into the country. The passports of all five journalists contained exactly the same short-term visas.

It’s taken almost three months, but Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos himself has apologised to Mozambican President Armando Guebuza for the incident. Well, it was actually Angolan foreign minister Georges Chikoti who delivered the message to Guebuza in person, but his words were on behalf of dos Santos. “We regret the way these journalists were treated,” said Chikoti. “It was an unfortunate incident.”

Unfortunate indeed, especially considering that not only were Macie and Cossa summarily deported, but the pair were forced onto an outgoing flight at gunpoint. Still, although it may have been more meaningful to the journalists if the immigration officials who mistreated them had offered a personal apology, this president-to-president apology is much more important when it comes to maintaining international relations.

In order to preserve good relations, Mozambican journalists travelling to Angola in future just may have an easier time of it than their recently deported colleagues, at least for the next little while. But dos Santos would do well to treat the journalists and media in his own country with more respect: Angola is classified as “not free” in Freedom House’s 2011 World Press Freedom Map, and more than ten journalists have been killed there in the last 20 years. DM