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CPJ: Guinea-Bissau journalist goes into hiding after armed men seek to arrest him

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On October 10, 2022, armed men in police uniform arrived at privately owned Rádio Galáxia de Pindjiguiti in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, to arrest Tiano Badjana, the station’s acting director. When they could not find him, they continued to his home, prompting the journalist to go into hiding, according to media reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. 

The incident followed the station’s broadcast of a news report that day about the disappearance of a large amount of drugs seized in a police operation that implicated the public order secretary of state, Augusto Kabi, those reports said.

Two staff members at the station, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told CPJ via messaging app that the armed men in police uniform (sources were unable to tell CPJ how many) had not entered the radio station as reported, but had asked a security guard to call Badjana, and when they were told he was not at work, proceeded to his home. He was not there either, so the armed men asked Badjana’s family for his contact details, which the family did not provide, the staff members and Badjana said.

One of the staff members told CPJ that Kabi had sent the police to arrest Badjana—who led the newsroom and was being held responsible for the coverage even though he did not write or read it on air—because he was angry about the report and that he had not been reached for comment before it aired. Kabi said he would only leave the journalist alone if there was a public apology, the same source said. The station and journalist subsequently apologized in writing on October 14 for not seeking Kabi’s right of reply, the staff member and Badjana said. CPJ reviewed a copy of the apology.

Reached by phone, Kabi forwarded a statement to CPJ confirming receipt of an apology letter from the station, but he denied ordering Badjana’s arrest. He said that he had consulted his deputy and the head of the national guard who also denied knowledge of any plan to arrest Badjana. Kabi said he was willing to send security personnel to protect Badjana if the journalist felt unsafe.

However, as of October 27, Badjana remained in hiding, said he felt unsafe, and that the default reaction of Guinean authorities was to deny knowledge of attacks on journalists. Moreover, if it was not the police, then the armed men who looked for him on October 10, were still at large. Thus, he feared for his life.

Indira Correia Baldé, the president of the local journalist’s union, Sinjotecs, told reporters that the union is following the situation.

In Guinea-Bissau, one radio station was attacked twice by armed men since 2020 and two journalists have been assaulted, without any apparent progress in police investigations.

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