Documentary It Is Forbidden to Talk in Angola tells the story of the 15 young adults who were accused of planning a rebellion against the government of José Eduardo Dos Santos for taking part in a book club. It is released for the first time with English subtitles by Index in conjunction with Brazil’s award-winning investigative journalists Agencia Publica.
Filmed over 25 days by award-winning journalists Natalia Viana and Eliza Capai from Agencia Publica, It Is Forbidden to Talk in Angola tells the story of the young rappers and activists who are being tried for reading a book by US Nobel Prize nominee Gene Sharp, called From Dictatorship to Democracy, A Conceptual Framework for Liberation.
The activists are facing trial on charges of “preparing acts of rebellion and plotting against the president and state institutions”, which are considered crimes against the security of the Angolan state. If found guilty they could face heavy prison sentences of up to 12 years. Some of the 15 jailed activists were kept in pre-trial detention for 177 days, exceeding the 90 days allowed by Angolan law.
The activists were told on 15 December that they would be sent home and placed under house arrest, according to MakaAngola.org.
Some of the jailed activists went on hunger strike to protest their arrest and detention. Rapper Henrique Luaty Beirão ended his hunger strike on October 27, after 36 days, following requests by his family and friends. He remains in serious condition.
Viana and Capai met several members of Central Angola, a community journalist and activist website whose members have received threats, have been beaten and are constantly surveilled by the security services of the Angolan government. Laurinda Gouveia, a 26-year old philosophy student, told the interviewers how she was beaten with metal bars for two hours in November 2014 for filming a small protest against the government.
“I felt their anger when the police beat me up. They kept saying: ‘You shouldn’t get involved in this, you are a woman, you should think about having a husband and a family… By the way we are beating you up, you will not be able to have babies’,” Gouveia told the journalists.
Following the interview, Gouveia was included in the state prosecutor’s investigation and is now on trial with her colleagues.
Viana and Capai also interviewed rapper Beirão’s family, after which the two journalists were targeted by Angolan authorities. Five days later, while in a public square during an event to mark the president’s birthday, the journalists said they were attacked by two members of the security forces. Disguised as “thieves”, the individuals stole the journalists’ equipment. Shaken, the two sought protection from the Brazilian embassy.
It Is Forbidden to Talk in Angola is a first-hand account of how Dos Santos’ regime works to intimidate anyone who questions his power, and it is released here for the first time with English subtitles.
Agencia Publica is a non-profit investigative journalism organisation that seeks to provide non-partisan reporting in the public interest on Brazilian and Latin American issues.