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Angola Shuts Down Radio Station

August 9, 1999

LUANDA, Angola (AP) _ Police on Monday shut down a Roman Catholic radio station that was one of the few independent sources of information in war-torn Angola, the journalists’ union said.

They raided Radio Ecclesia as it relayed a British Broadcasting Corp. interview with UNITA rebel chief Jonas Savimbi, arresting the director and three employees.

Excerpts of the same interview were aired later on state television.

Police burst into the radio station’s studios in Luanda, the Angolan capital, around 8:00 p.m. with an arrest warrant for the director, Father Antonio Jaka, editor Laurinda Tavares, as well as a producer and a journalist, said Alvelino Miguel, a spokesman for the union.

Government officials in Luanda said they had no knowledge of any arrests.

The radio was off the air as of late Monday.

In the BBC interview, Savimbi played down reports of a humanitarian catastrophe in the war-ravaged country and claimed the rebels had gained the upper-hand since the resumption of fighting in December after four years of shaky peace.

The leader of UNITA _ a Portuguese acronym for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola _ also said the rebels were open to negotiating a political solution to the conflict in view of pressure from the United States and South Africa.

As part of its independent line, Radio Ecclesia also broadcast information on clashes in various parts of the country, defying a government-ordered blackout on news about fighting.

The government has detained several Angolan journalists who reported on battles.

The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders, an international journalists’ watchdog group, has condemned the Angolan government for intimidating the press and expressed concern about attacks on reporters covering the war.