The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has observed with great concern the siege on press freedom in Guinea-Bissau, the most recent being the attack on the home of Rui Landim, a popular radio panellist and political analyst, on February 8, 2022.
We urge authorities to take steps to protect critical journalists and activists in the country and ensure that all fundamental freedoms, especially freedom of expression, are respected.
On February 8, 2022, the home of Rui Landim was attacked by armed men, a day after Radio Capital, the station where he is a regular panelist was attacked by armed men.
Landim was at home with his family when the assailants, armed with AK-47, opened fire at the gate of his residence, after trying in vain to break down a section of the fence. The attackers threw tear gas into the compound. One of the tear gas is reported to have landed in the room of his 15-year-old granddaughter, choking her.
The tear gas was apparently aimed at compelling Landim to come out. Fortunately, some neighbours gathered courage and came out shouting and urging the besieged family to remain indoors which they did. The armed thugs, who appeared to be members of the Polícia de Intervenção Rápida (Rapid Intervention Police Unit – PIR), eventually gave up and sped away in their vehicles.
Neighbours told local media that Landim and his family were visibly shaken and traumatised by the attack which lasted some ten minutes.
For Rui Landim, 66, whose life has been threatened several times, it is obvious that the attack is linked to the analysis of the political situation in Guinea-Bissau that he made as a panellist during the Monday, February 7 edition of the radio programme, “Pontos nos Ís” (Dot the I’s), on the privately-owned Radio Capital FM. The radio station was attacked on the same day, February 7.
Radio Capital was reduced to shambles by armed uniformed men on February 7, 2022, after a morning daily show where people had the opportunity to question the underlying reasons for the failed coup attempt of February 1, 2022.
Rui Landim expressed his anxiety and fears with regards to all this situation in a video call with the MFWA.
“Three hours before the attack, I received information about a list of people that are to be kidnapped, and my name is on the blacklist. I fear for the safety of my family and I hold the government responsible for whatever happens. I call to witness national and international opinion on this matter,” he said.
Landim’s daughter, Ludimila Lurdes Gomes Danfa Tavares, who spoke to the MFWA via phone, said no one was hurt in the attack, apart from the trauma of coming close to death. She added that his father is doing well. The family has however evacuated the home for security reasons, adding “We don’t feel safe in this country anymore.” She said although the family has reported the attack to the police, “they are not expecting much.”
Meanwhile, the president of the Guinean League for Human Rights (LGDH), Augusto Mário Silva, says he himself was threatened near his residence by unknown elements on February 9. He added that the home of his predecessor, also a regular critical voice on Radio Capital, Luis Vaz Martins, has also been attacked by unknown assailants. Mario Silva observed that the minister of Interior, Botche Candé, has failed in his duty to ensure public safety and therefore called for his “immediate resignation.”
The MFWA strongly condemns the brutal assault on Rui Landim’s home as an attack on citizen’s rights to freedom of expression and opinion in Guinea-Bissau. We call on authorities to put an end to the all-out repression and silencing of the media and dissident voices. The MFWA urges the government to hold to account the perpetrators of the recent freedom of expression violations in Guinea Bissau. No viable democracy can be built in an atmosphere of intimidation and insecurity, especially as such an atmosphere suppresses freedom of expression. We, therefore, urge the government of Guinea-Bissau to rein in the thugs who are terrorising the media and civil society voices.