When the coup d'etat happened on Thursday night, April 12, Guinea-Bissau watchers knew exactly where to go for on-the-ground reports – the blog of journalist António Aly Silva, Ditadura do Consenso (Dictatorship of Consensus).
Aly Silva is one of the most important bloggers in the small west African country of over 1 million people, if not the most important (see this Global Voices interview with him). He is a controversial figure in the country, who does not hide his political leanings. Yet nobody can match him in terms of his longevity, frequency of posting, and dedication to blogging.
On Wednesday night, he was one of very few citizen reporters attempting to transmit information from the troubled capital of Bissau. He reported from the National Hospital on his blog with micro posts, turning his blog into a sort of “live blog”.
He reported later that hits to his blog skyrocketed on Thursday, going from a daily minimum of about 2,500 to 50,000.
Friday morning he posted photographs of the damaged residence of Presidential candidate Carlos Gomes Jr, whose whereabouts were still unknown after the night's events. Then Aly Silva went silent after the morning in which he reported on top military officials’ movements. It appears he was detained while taking photos or reporting near military installations and it is unclear whether his captors knew about his large online audience.
In the afternoon, word began to circulate on Twitter that Aly Silva had been arrested and by the evening's news broadcasts in Portugal, the Guinean and Portuguese national was a cause celèbre.
A Facebook group for his release gained over 1,800 members. And on Twitter people began circulating his photo.
About 10 hours after his last post, Aly Silva resurfaced, saying he had been freed after sustaining a beating by rifle butt and had his ear cut. He indicates he was beaten and detained in the historic Amura Fort, where most of his reporting equipment was stolen from him by the military personnel who beat him.
His last post “SOS: I need a computer!” makes it clear that his blogging has been affected by his detention and the robbery.