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Guinea-Bissau Journalist Says Government Harrassing Him Over Reports on Drug Trade

A prominent journalist in Guinea-Bissau says he has been harassed by the government and military for his reporting on the drug trade. The International Federation of Journalists is urging Guinea-Bissau's president, Joao Bernardo Vieira, to intervene to end the threats that have forced some journalists into hiding. Naomi Schwarz has the story from Dakar with additional reporting by Julie Vandal in Guinea-Bissau.

Alberto Dabo is a Guinea-Bissauan journalist. He has reported for the British news agency Reuters, as well as for a local radio station Bombolom FM, but recently one topic has proven dangerous for him.

Dabo says journalists in Guinea-Bissau are harassed when they report on the sensitive issue of drug trafficking. Dabo has reported on allegations that civil and military authorities in Guinea-Bissau are involved in the drug trade, allegations they deny.

Dabo says he began receiving death threats in June.

Recently, the journalist went into hiding briefly, at United Nations headquarters in Guinea-Bissau, when the naval chief of staff, Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, became angry over an interview he gave to British television. Dabo was the translator.

The report on ITN quoted the naval chief as admitting senior officers were involved in cocaine trafficking.

Dabo says several days after the foreign journalists left, Bubo Na Tchuto and his men came looking for him at his home and office. He says friends advised him to hide at the United Nations.

Dabo says he has been charged with libel, defamation, violating state secrets, abusing press freedom, colluding with foreign journalists and defaming the chief of staff of the navy.

Dabo says he did nothing wrong.

The naval chief of staff, Bubo Na Tchuto, says his comments were taken out of context. He says he was misrepresented in the report.

The International Federation of Journalists says it believes the charges against Dabo are baseless. In a letter to Guinea-Bissau president, Joao Bernardo Vieira, the organization said it worries Dabo will not receive a fair trial.

The group says a second journalist, who investigated the drug trade for French media, fled the country after his home was ransacked and he was threatened.

The federation is urging President Vieira to stop the harassment of journalists and deliver a strong message that the government does not support the illegal drug trade.