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Guinea-Bissau expels Portuguese journalist; another flees into hiding

UPDATE: Government reverses decision to expel RTP bureau chief (RSF, 5 November 2012)

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, November 1, 2012 - The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Monday's decision by authorities in Guinea-Bissau to expel Portuguese journalist Fernando Teixeira Gomes from the country in connection with his critical coverage of the transitional government.

The Ministry of Communications sent a letter to Gomes, chief of the news bureau of Portugal's state broadcaster Radiotelevisão Portuguesa (RTP) in the Guinean capital, Bissau, ordering him to leave the country the same week, Agence France-Presse reported. RTP Director of Information Nuno Santos said in an interview with Portuguese news agency LUSA that Gomes was leaving Guinea-Bissau and would arrive in Portugal on Friday.

AFP reported that Gomes had been accused of publishing "hostile reports" against the government. RTP had broadcast extensive coverage of the exiled former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior (no relation to the journalist), who was critical of the government and the military, according to local journalists.

Relations between Portugal and its former colony, Guinea-Bissau, have deteriorated since Guinean military chief Gen. Antonio Indjai staged an April 12 coup ahead of a runoff presidential election scheduled for April 29 that former minister Gomes, who was backed by Portugal, was favored to win, according to news reports. During the coup, troops detained António Aly Silva, a freelance journalist and blogger based in Bissau,for nine hours after he published photos of the military surrounding the residence of prime minister Gomes, news reports said.

After a political deal was reached, the military junta transferred power in May to a civilian transitional government, which has accused Portugal of masterminding what it described as a failed counter-coup in October.

Presidential and legislative elections in Guinea-Bissau are scheduled for April 2013.

Silva told CPJ that soldiers in an unmarked car visited his residence this past weekend and threatened to kill him. Fearing for his life, Silva has fled into hiding.

"The expulsion of Fernando Teixeira Gomes is a setback for democracy ahead of presidential elections," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "We are also alarmed by reports of official intimidation against freelance journalist António Aly Silva and hold Guinean authorities responsible for his well-being."

Gomes is the second RTP journalist expelled from Guinea-Bissau. In 2002, RTP was banned and João Pereira da Silva, the station's bureau chief, ordered to leave the country after the station was accused of broadcasting "information that could tarnish the good image of Guinea-Bissau abroad" in a program about a general who was killed after leading an unsuccessful coup.

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