Authorities in Cape Verde in January and February 2022 opened investigations into three journalists for “qualified disobedience,” in connection with their reporting on a classified investigation into a police killing, which allegedly involves a minister and, after seven years, produced no suspects, according to the journalists and news reports.
On January 26, 2022, Hermínio Silves, editor of the privately owned news website the Santiago Magazine, was declared a formal suspect in a criminal investigation in connection with his reporting on an investigation into whether officers, allegedly led by the current minister of internal administration, killed a criminal suspect in 2014, according to Silves who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and news reports.
On February 4, officials at the Attorney General’s office in Praia, the capital, questioned and named reporter Daniel Almeida and director Alexandre Semedo, both of privately owned newspaper A Nação, as formal suspects for allegedly disclosing confidential judicial information in news reports about police abuse, also relating to the 2014 case, according to the journalists and their lawyer Mário Marques, who spoke to CPJ by phone and messaging app, and news reports.
Earlier in January 2022, CPJ reported that Silves was under investigation for alleged violations of Article 112 of the criminal procedural code with regard to judicial secrecy, related to his reporting on the case, but this was changed as the article does not apply to journalists, according to Silvino Fernandes, Silves’ lawyer, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
The investigation followed the publication of two articles, written by Silves and Almeida and published in the respective publications on December 28, 2021, and January 12, 2022, containing allegations that Paulo Rocha, the current minister of internal administration, was allegedly at the scene of a 2014 shooting that ended in the death of the suspect, in his then-capacity as deputy director of the judicial police, according to the journalists, Marques, and news reports.
Rocha’s adviser Carla Almeida, not related to the journalist, did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment. In a previous email to CPJ about Silves’ summoning to the attorney general’s office for questioning, she forwarded a reply from Rocha denying the newspapers’ allegations and vowing he would “defend his dignity, good name, and public image with all legal means available.”
The three journalists were declared “arguidos,” a status unique to Portuguese legal systems in which people become formal suspects in the commission of a crime, and which can be a preliminary step to arrest or a formal charge, according to Fernandes. Under this declaration, the journalists and their outlets are barred from reporting on the investigation into alleged police abuses or risk a charge of contempt if they do.
The investigation could lead to a court indictment if Attorney General Luis Landim, who is personally handling the case, gathers enough evidence for Article 113, the crime of “qualified disobedience, which applies to the act of disclosing information under judicial secrecy,” Fernandes told CPJ. The journalists and face up to two years in prison or a fine to be set by a judge, according to Article 356 of the penal code, which CPJ reviewed.
The Cape Verde legal community is divided over whether Article 113 should apply to journalists, according to Marques, adding that he was among those including some prosecutors with the Attorney’s General’s office, who believe that the right to be informed prevailed over judicial secrecy and that the article should not apply to journalists.
The Cape Verdean journalists’ association, a local trade group, organized a protest on February 4 outside the attorney general’s office to coincide with Almeida and Semedo’s questioning, association president Geremias Furtado told CPJ by phone.
Luis Landim, the attorney general, told state television that the journalists’ protest was misdirected and his office was merely enforcing the law, according to news reports. CPJ emailed his spokesman Inelson Costa, who did not reply to requests for comment.
The journalists’ association and Cape Verde journalists will petition the National Assembly to amend the article so it does not apply to the media, Furtado told CPJ. On February 11, 2022, opposition members of parliament signaled their support for a review of the criminal procedure law to remove any impediments to media freedom, including Article 113 and Joana Rosa, the minister of justice, said the government was open to debate, if necessary, according to news reports.