Angola

Partly Free
62
100
A Obstacles to Access 12 25
B Limits on Content 30 35
C Violations of User Rights 20 40
Last Year's Score & Status
62 100 Partly Free
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free)

header1 Overview

Internet freedom in Angola improved in the first years of the administration of President João Lourenço. A greater political focus on transparency and the fight against corruption has emboldened free speech. However, violence against protestors and journalists have recently contributed to self-censorship, reinstating an environment of fear that in the past limited public discussion of governance issues. Angolans are likelier to use social media platforms for the purposes of activism and community building than in the past. An ongoing economic crisis has affected the viability of some online media outlets. The government’s perceived ability to monitor and intercept the data and communications of Angolan citizens is a major concern.

Angola has been ruled by the same party since independence, and authorities have systematically repressed political dissent. Corruption, due process violations, and abuses by security forces remain common. Since President Lourenço’s 2017 election, the government has taken steps to crack down on endemic corruption and has eased restrictions on the press and civil society. Nevertheless, serious governance and human rights challenges persist.

header2 Key Developments, June 1, 2020 - May 31, 2021

  • Malfunctions in undersea internet cables, which disrupted connectivity for Angolans in early 2020, did not occur during the coverage period (see A1).
  • State-oil company Sonangol, which controls a 50 percent stake in Unitel, the country’s largest service provider, is positioned to seize a further 25 percent stake. In December 2020, a court seized the minority stake from Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of former president José Eduardo dos Santos, over a Sonangol lawsuit alleging that she defrauded Unitel of hundreds of millions of dollars (see A4).
  • Amid widespread protests in late 2020 and early 2021, activists used social media and messaging platforms, particularly for livestreaming, to record incidents of police brutality; prominent activist Luaty Beirão was detained while livestreaming (see B8 and C3).
  • In June 2020, reports emerged that Angolan intelligence services had purchased Pegasus spyware, while the country’s primary opposition party, UNITA, alleged its communications had been monitored by security forces (see C5).
  • The Ministry of Finance’s servers were hacked in February 2021, and the news site Correio Angolense was taken offline in September 2020 after reporting on alleged corruption by the president’s chief of staff (see C8).

A Obstacles to Access

A1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections? 2.002 6.006

Score Change: The score improved from 1 to 2 because malfunctions in undersea internet cables, which interrupted internet connectivity in early 2020, did not repeat during the coverage period.

Access to the internet in Angola remains very low but has been growing steadily. According to the Angolan Ministry of Telecommunications, Information Technologies and Social Communication, 6.86 million users accessed the internet in 2020, amounting to 21.55 percent of the population.1 In contrast, data from the Digital 2021 report indicated an internet penetration rate of 31 percent in Angola.2

The National Institute of Telecommunications (INACOM), the country’s telecommunications regulator, reported that there were 14 million mobile phone users in 2019, representing almost half of the population; the figure represented a 2 percent increase over the previous year.3 Coverage and penetration of third-generation (3G) and fourth-generation (4G) technology for mobile networks reached 85 percent and 13.8 percent of the population, respectively.4 Half of the country’s internet users connect to the internet through mobile devices, according to INACOM statements in December 2019.5

Poor infrastructure significantly hampers information and communications technology (ICT) access, though it is improving somewhat. The country’s fractured electricity system served 73.7 percent of the urban population as of 2018,6 but only 8 percent of the rural population as of 2015,7 according to the latest World Bank data. Power outages remain frequent.

Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index estimated average download speeds of 22.8 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 10.4 Mbps through mobile internet connections as of May 2021, and average download speeds of 14.3 Mbps and average upload speeds of 7.3 Mbps on fixed-line broadband internet.8

Internet connectivity and speed were severely affected in 2020 with two malfunctions in both the West African Cable System (WACS) and the South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable (SAT-3/WASC) cables.9 The first malfunction lasted for almost a full month between January and February, while the second, which took place in mid-March, lasted two weeks.10 Both incidents caused occasional outages, as well as a significant reduction in connection speeds, with Angola Telecom being the most affected provider. International voice communication services were also limited during both periods. 11

In May 2020, Angola Cables reported a 170 percent increase in data consumption in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.12 TV Cabo, the country’s main fixed broadband provider, reported service disruptions in August 2020, attributing the interruptions to increased traffic as more people were using the internet during the COVID-19 pandemic. 13

The South Atlantic Cable System (SACS), a submarine fiber-optic cable connecting Brazil and Angola that aims to reduce the bandwidth costs associated with the distance that internet traffic must travel from Europe and the United States, was completed in May 2018.14

The government’s Telecommunications Sector White Paper 2019–22, which was released in December 2019, envisages the development of a new generation of electronic communications infrastructure in country. The document seeks to expand internet access in municipalities, simplify licensing for the market (see A4), ensure universal access to quality internet speeds, address the digital divide (see A2), and create a fund for internet infrastructure projects.15

According to the national director of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, Matias Borges, 22,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cables have already been installed around the country as of August 2020. Borges forecasts a network extension of 5.8 million kilometers of cable.16 In May 2019, the Angolan government awarded a contract to construct a new telecommunications satellite, AngoSat-3, to European consortium Airbus. The satellite is expected to launch in 2021.17

A2 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons? 1.001 3.003

Internet access remains prohibitively expensive for many people, especially in rural areas. The government and some private companies have made efforts to establish free wireless hotspots.

ICT access remains prohibitively expensive for the majority of Angolans, partially due to a lack of competition in the ICT industry (see A4).1 President Lourenço has expressed concern about the cost and quality of internet services.2 In September 2020, Movicel announced it would review a planned price increase, noting the impact of currency devaluation on its market position.3 Reforms to the Industrial Tax Code in July 2020, levied a tax of 35 percent on telecommunications companies, which added pressure for them to increase subscription prices.4

According to Cable, a United Kingdom–based telecommunications company, the average monthly cost of broadband internet was $52.68 in 2020, which was $6.36 less than the previous year.5 The average cost of 1 gigabyte (GB) of mobile data was $5.29 as of February 2020. 6 According to a joint study by the African Union and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 4 percent of the population can afford 1 GB per month of data (well below the regional average of 23 percent).7

Prices for mobile data, call plans, and broadband internet access in Angola are high compared to neighboring countries—10 times higher than South Africa’s, for example. Lower-cost packages, such as those offered by Movicel and NetOne, are associated with inferior speeds and overall service quality.8

Poor infrastructure particularly affects rural residents, for whom voice and data services are of much lower quality and are subject to frequent cuts and extremely slow connection speeds. Due to the country’s fractured electricity system, urban areas are more likely to have connectivity (see A1).

Angola Online, a government-promoted project, has established a number of hotspots in an effort to expand the availability and accessibility of the internet.9 According to the National Institute for Promotion of the Information Society (INFOSI), 111 free hotspots were established at universities and other locations in 13 of the country´s 18 provinces,10 serving a monthly average of 12,700 people by January 2021.11 Service is limited to two hours daily per user. In Luanda and other cities, free hotspots sponsored by private companies12 have increasingly become available in public spaces.13 However, lockdown measures instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic limited Angolans’ access to universities, workplaces, and other locations where they could access the internet, while Angola Online hotspots have been overwhelmed by demand and suffered from power outages, vandalism, and budget cuts, according to INFOSI.14

According to the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) latest global analysis of prices for mobile-voice, mobile-data, and fixed-broadband services, Angola ranks 142nd among countries with the most affordable plans in terms of gross national income (GNI) per capita, and 127th in terms of affordability for low-consumption mobile-data-and-voice baskets.15

The recent economic downturn has made the internet even less accessible. 16 Angola saw a nearly 9 percent increase in unemployment between 2017 and 2019; 28.8 percent of the working-age population was unemployed.17

A3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? 5.005 6.006

No restrictions on connectivity to internet or mobile phone networks were reported during the coverage period. The Angolan government’s indirect control of telecommunications infrastructure via the state-owned Angola Telecom may enable the government to partially control internet connectivity, if desired.1

Angola’s domestic internet backbone is currently comprised of microwave, very small aperture terminal (VSAT), and fiber-optic cables. Angola is connected to the international internet through the WACS, which is owned by Angola Cables, the SAT-3 cable, which is operated by Angola Telecom, the Main One cable, and WASACE Angola, a planned system of submarine communications cables with connections on multiple continents. Angola Cables, a consortium of the country’s telecommunications operators of which Angola Telecom and Unitel hold the largest stakes (51 and 31 percent, respectively), manages the country’s internet exchange point (IXP), ANGONIX2 (which grew to become the third-largest IXP in Africa in 2017)3 and is responsible for the SACS (see A1).

According to a 2019 World Bank Report, Angola Telecom also controls 12,000 kilometers (7,450 miles) of the 22,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cables in the country.4

A4 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers? 3.003 6.006

The state and the political-military elite still dominate Angola’s main service providers, despite government plans to reduce the state’s presence in the sector. Politicians, government allies, and state-owned oil company Sonangol can exert some control on the ICT sector through direct and indirect ownership of shares in internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile service providers.

Sonangol owns 3 of the country’s 18 ISPs (MSTelcom, Nexus, and ACS), is a major shareholder in Angola Cables, and controls 50 percent of Unitel, the country’s largest ISP.1 Angola Telecom owns 51 percent of Angola Cables, and provides their own internet services.2 The two undersea cables that connect Angola to the internet are managed by Angola Cables; critics argue this gives the company a de facto monopoly on internet provision to telecommunications companies, squeezing prices for consumers upward.3

In August 2019, the government introduced a plan to sell numerous state holdings, including service providers. MSTelcom, Net One, Unitel, TV Cabo Angola, and Multitel were to be privatized.4 Angola Telecom and Angola Cables are scheduled to be privatized in 2021.5 The government previously announced that it would seek to sell a 45 percent stake of Angola Telecom’s fixed-network services in November 2019.6 In late 2020, the president authorized an initial public offering (IPO) of 49 percent of its stake in TV Cabo, the main fixed-line broadband provider in the country.7 As of July 2021, the government was set to sell its stake in Multitel and NetOne and finalize the TV Cabo IPO.8

Two private operators, Unitel and Movicel, provide mobile phone services, but both are owned in part by politically connected individuals. Unitel is the dominant player, with 73 percent of the market as of 2019.9 Sonangol owns 25 percent of Unitel and gained a further 25 percent stake in the company after purchasing PT Ventures, a Portuguese company, from Brazilian telecommunications firm Oi SA in January 2020.10 In December 2020, a court in the Virgin Islands transferred the assets of Vidatel, a holding company incorporated in the country by Isabel dos Santos, to judicial administrators. Through Vidatel, dos Santos controlled a 25 percent stake in Unitel. The ruling followed a lawsuit initiated by PT Ventures alleging that dos Santos defrauded the provider of hundreds of millions of dollars. PT Ventures may now seek to seize Vidatel’s assets, which would allow Sonangol to control 75 percent of Unitel.11 Meanwhile, GENI SARL, an entity reportedly owned by General Leopoldino do Nascimento, a dos Santos loyalist, owns a 25 percent stake of Unitel.12

Movicel retains a 27 percent market share as of 2019.13 The National Social Security Institute (INPS), a state agency, bought 25 percent of Movicel that year, becoming the second-largest shareholder after Lello International, which owns a 38 percent stake.14 Portmil Investimentos, a holding company associated with General Nascimento and other former government officials, sold its stake in January 2020.15 Under a 2019 agreement, Vodafone is now in charge of Movicel´s operational management. Isabel dos Santos’s half-sister, Welwitschia dos Santos, reportedly holds an indirect stake in Movicel.16

In March 2020, the government working group announced that Africell Holding SAL, a Gambian company, would be licensed as Angola’s fourth telecommunications operator.17 The government announced the process to choose a new operator in April 2019, after cancelling plans to issue the license to Telstar, a politically connected company with no experience in the industry.18 Angola Telecom has launched plans to share infrastructure with Africell,19 abandoning plans for a mobile partnership with Angorascom Telecomunicações20 and announcing in November 2019 that it would “subconcession” its mobile license to Angorascom to increase competition in Angola’s mobile market. 21

The 2017 Law on Electronic Communications further enhances the government’s ability to control the country’s ICT sector.22 On paper, the law aims to ensure that ICTs in Angola are developed to play a fundamental role in ensuring citizens’ universal access to information, transparency in the public sector, and participatory democracy. It also sets broader goals of poverty alleviation, competitiveness, productivity, employment, and consumer rights.23 However, the law also contains a broadly worded clause allowing the head of government to “intervene” if ISPs jeopardize “social functions” or “gravely compromise the rights of subscribers or users.”24 Analysts have interpreted this clause as potentially allowing the president to exercise control over the whole sector.

A5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner? 1.001 4.004

Angola’s powerful ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), maintains effective control of regulatory bodies.

The Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology is responsible for oversight of the ICT sector. INACOM, established in 1999, serves as the sector’s regulatory body. In this capacity, it determines industry policies, sets prices for telecommunications services, and issues licenses. INACOM is, on paper, an independent public institution with both financial and administrative autonomy from the ministry. In practice, its autonomy is fairly limited.1 Its director general is appointed by the government and can be dismissed for any reason.2 In addition, the telecommunications ministry can influence staff appointments. Other ministries often involve themselves in sector policy, leading to politically influenced regulatory decisions.

Under the Lourenço administration, INACOM has exercised its regulatory powers more assertively, primarily in containing consumer price increases by telecommunications operators.3

B Limits on Content

B1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 6.006 6.006

Despite a history of censorship in print and broadcast media, there have been no known incidents of the government blocking or filtering online content in Angola, and there are no restrictions on the type of information that can be exchanged through digital media technologies. A set of new media laws that took effect in 2017 has been criticized as restrictive, but no websites have been censored under their provisions to date (see C1). Social media and communications apps, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and international blog-hosting services, are freely available.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 4.004 4.004

There were no public reports of forced content removal during the coverage period, though informal government demands on users to remove content from the internet have been documented periodically.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process? 4.004 4.004

While some Angolan laws applicable to the digital sphere contain harsh restrictions, in practice these have not been enforced on websites or users.

In January 2017, the government implemented new media laws known as the Social Communication Legislative Package. The package included the new Press Law and created a regulatory body with the power to ban websites (see C1). Article 10 of the Press Law states that “all social communication media” have the responsibility to inform citizens “in accordance with the public interest.” Article 7 sets limits to the exercise of freedom of the press, including on the internet, with several broad provisions.1 Critics say these effectively enable the government to control and censor critical information posted on social media or elsewhere online.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship? 3.003 4.004

In the past, self-censorship has been pervasive and commonly practiced by journalists at both state-run and private print outlets, though bloggers and social media users were less reluctant to express criticism of the president and ruling party.

A crackdown on the media during the coverage period sharpened self-censorship, including for online journalists. In February 2021, Mariano Brás, editor of an independent paper, was questioned by police and threatened with charges for writing an article critical of the president’s performance.1 The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has qualified the case as harassment.2 Amid mass antigovernment protests in October 2020, numerous journalists were arrested, detained, or beaten while reporting (see B8).3

B5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? 3.003 4.004

Government efforts to manipulate online content are still sporadically reported. Some independent online news outlets report receiving regular calls from government officials directing them to tone down criticism, or refrain from reporting on certain issues.1

Under COVID-19 emergency measures imposed in March 2020 (see C1), state and private media outlets are obligated to collaborate with “competent authorities,” which the decree defines as the government bodies responsible for security, civil protection, and public health.2 Though it is not clear how this provision has been put to effect, there are concerns that it may be used to manipulate Angola’s media environment.

Members of the ruling MPLA own and tightly control a majority of the country’s media outlets, including those that are the most widely disseminated and accessed. The leading opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), has protested the state-controlled media’s reporting, its lack of coverage of the opposition, and biased stories and initiatives that are published, particularly in the wake of what nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have called the “massacre” of Cafunfo protestors in January 2020.3

Of the main dozen or so privately owned newspapers, most are held by individuals connected to the government. Infighting between supporters of President Lourenço and former president dos Santos has spilled over to online media, with most outlets becoming critical of the previous administration. Some analysts suspect that increasingly critical coverage of dos Santos has come as a result of pressure put on outlets since his departure. Members of opposition parties and youth activists in the province of Cabinda, where several independence and autonomy movements are active, are still excluded from state media programs, including online.4

Bots on social media have become more prevalent and influential in recent years. A study by the political consultancy firm Portland Communications found that during the August 2017 election period, accounts that were potentially bots represented 9 percent of social media “influencers,” and that 94 percent of the bots were based outside of Angola, including in South Africa and the United States. The study found that bots held significant social media influence during the election, second only to journalists and media organizations.5

Leading opposition party UNITA accused the government of spreading false information about the party on social media, including about UNITA president Adalberto Costa Júnior, throughout the coverage period.6 Another opposition party, Convergência Ampla de Salvação de Angola–Coligação Eleitoral (CASA-CE), made similar claims in March 2021.7 Analysts suggest such campaigns may be coordinated by the intelligence services (SINSE) and presidential advisors.8

B6 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online? 2.002 3.003

Both state agencies and private sector actors often deny advertising revenue to media outfits that criticize the political-military elite.

Separately, a severe economic crisis has led to financial constraints at numerous outlets, and reports of wage arrears and layoffs are frequent. Recent reports indicated that individuals at some smaller, cash-strapped newspapers have accepted bribes to write critical, poorly substantiated stories about government personalities, including the president.1

B7 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability? 3.003 4.004

As a result of low rates of ICT access, radio, television, and print outlets remain the primary sources of information for the majority of Angolans. Both online and traditional media suffer from some degree of government interference, especially those with ties to the MPLA, which limits the diversity of accessible viewpoints (see B5).

The main sources of alternative and independent online news in Angola include Club-K and Maka Angola. Outlets funded by foreign governments, including Portuguese news agency Lusa, Voice of America (VOA), French broadcaster Radio France Internationale (RFI), and Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) Africa, are also widely read.

Many independent newspapers are at risk, especially those that have lacked the resources to shift online during the economic crisis. In late 2019, printing companies suspended newspaper printing for over a month, officially due to financial constraints. Publishers, including those of the newspapers Hora H or A Republica, believe that the regime is boycotting their coverage due to its critical content, which is circulated widely on social media.1 The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis exacerbated the closure of independent print media, prompting some journalists to turn to online publishing.2

False information, often unsourced or wrongfully credited to reliable media, is increasingly common, especially on messaging platforms. COVID-19 misinformation spread online during the coverage period,3 and the government has combatted false information about government officials and people close to the president.4

While the online information landscape represents an increasing variety of groups and viewpoints across the country, the concentration of internet access in urban areas hampers regional and ethnic representation. The effective decriminalization of same-sex relations in January 2019 has enabled freer online discussion of issues affecting LGBT+ people.

B8 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues? 5.005 6.006

While occasional arrests of protesters and online activists have muted digital activism and mobilization in the past, use of social media to mobilize support for various causes has become more common in recent years. Mobilization platforms are freely available to users, and citizens criticize the government and react to alleged wrongdoings within Angola’s lively social media environment. Youth groups in particular have increasingly flocked to Facebook to call out government corruption, reflecting a gradual weakening of the environment of fear within civil society.1

Social media and messaging apps, like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, are frequently used to mobilize protests. Activists consider livestreaming and messaging as effective tools to record evidence of police brutality, as security forces often repress demonstrations with disproportionate force. For instance, videos shared through WhatsApp during protests in late 2020 and January 2021 show police using live ammunition against protestors. Influential activist Luaty Beirão was arrested in November 2020 while livestreaming on Facebook as Beirão peacefully marched to a protest site (see C3).2

After the January 2019 removal of a penal code provision that criminalized same-sex relations,3 a new LGBT+ group, Iris, was legalized,4 and is now active on social networks.5

C Violations of User Rights

C1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence? 2.002 6.006

The Angolan constitution provides for freedom of expression and the press, and the 2011 Law on Electronic Communications and Information Company Services provides for citizens’ rights to privacy and security online, among other provisions regulating internet use and services.

Nevertheless, Angolan laws also include problematic language that may infringe on internet freedom (see C2).1 In January 2017, former president dos Santos enacted a set of media laws known as the Social Communication Legislative Package, which included a Press Law, Television Law, Broadcast Law, Journalists’ Code of Conduct, and statutes to establish the Angolan Regulatory Body for Social Communication (ERCA). The latter body was created to regulate journalists’ conduct and investigate producers of online content without judicial oversight; it has the power to suspend or ban websites that fail to abide by its standards of “good journalism.”2

Meanwhile, the judiciary is subject to considerable influence from the ruling political-military elite, with Supreme Court justices appointed to life terms by the president and without legislative approval. The Association of Judges of Angola sharply criticized President Lourenço’s 2021 proposal to revise the constitution, alleging that it would, if passed, “further weaken the courts in the exercise of their jurisdictional function.”3

In March 2020, President Lourenço issued a decree for “Provisional and Exceptional Measures to Prevent and Control Propagation of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” imposing a lockdown and restricting certain rights enshrined in the Angolan constitution. The decree requires state-operated and private media outlets to collaborate with “competent authorities,” which the decree defines as government bodies responsible for security, civil protection, and public health,4 raising concerns that the government would use the lockdown to limit the press. The 2010 constitution permits the government to limit certain rights and freedoms in a state of emergency.5 The Lourenço administration extended the state of emergency two times, until May 2020.6

In May 2020, the parliament unanimously amended the Basic Law for Civil Protection to allow the president to declare a state of calamity to respond to situations of collective risk. Measures taken under a state of calamity may not restrict or limit the constitutional rights of Angolans.7 After the amendment passed, Lourenço declared a state of calamity, which did not limit the freedom of the press.8 The government has extended the state of calamity repeatedly, including a 30-day extension in June 2021, after the coverage period.9

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 1.001 4.004

Stringent laws regarding state security and defamation run counter to constitutional guarantees. Article 26 of the 2010 State Security Law penalizes individuals who insult the country or president in “public meetings or by disseminating words, images, writings, or sound” with prison sentences of up to three years.1

The new penal code approved in January 2019 criminalizes “insults” against the president2 and contains articles specifically pertaining to media activity. These include fines and up to six months’ imprisonment for “abuse of press freedom,” which can encompass incitement, the dissemination of hate speech, and the defense of fascist or racist ideologies. The measure also covers those who disseminate texts, images, or sounds obtained by fraudulent means, as well as those who intentionally publish “fake news.” Under the new code, individuals who insult someone through the media can be fined and sentenced to up to six months in prison; people charged with defamation can draw fines and a prison sentence as long as one year.

Computer crimes are also included in the new code, which, for instance, punishes the illegitimate access of information systems. Article 444 stipulates that “if access is achieved by breach of security rules or if it has been carried out to a protected service, the penalty is from two to eight years’ imprisonment.”3

C3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 4.004 6.006

High-profile prosecutions of journalists and activists have taken place in the past. However, there were no major cases of sentences for legitimate online activity during the coverage period.

In November 2020, influential activist Luaty Beirão was arrested while livestreaming on Facebook as Beirão peacefully marched to a protest site. He was briefly detained, and his device seized.1

In May 2020, during the previous coverage period, Armando Chicoca, a VOA correspondent and Journalists’ Union delegate, was charged by the prosecutor general’s office for “insult to a public authority.” Chicoca previously criticized the mistreatment of another journalist by the Namibe governor’s security staff, including in widely shared social media posts on the subject.2 As of June 2021, Chicoca had not yet been brought to trial.

People are occasionally penalized for online activities through the justice system, the integrity of which has drawn serious doubts. Hitler “Samussuku” Tshikonde, a member of the “15+2” group of youth activists who were tried and acquitted for an alleged coup attempt in 2016, was detained in May 2019 after he posted a video criticizing President Lourenço on social media; in the video, Tshikonde asserted that after having been targeted by former president dos Santos, Lourenço “was nothing.” He further warned Lourenço against arresting his fellow activists.3 He was detained for 72 hours but ultimately freed.4

C4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? 3.003 4.004

There are no reports of substantial restrictions on encryption. SIM card registration is mandatory, however, and hampers the ability of mobile phone users to communicate anonymously. SIM cards must be registered directly with INACOM, the ICT regulator that operates under government oversight. The process requires an identity card or driver’s license and tax card for national citizens, or a passport with a valid visa for visitors.1

C5 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? 2.002 6.006

The government’s ability to monitor and intercept the data and communications of Angolan citizens without adequate oversight is a major concern, particularly among human rights activists and journalists. The full extent of the government’s surveillance capabilities and practices is unknown, though developments in the coverage period suggest that the government plans to expand its surveillance capacity.

In January 2021, the country’s main opposition party, UNITA, claimed that its communications were being monitored by state intelligence. As evidence, they cited content of WhatsApp messages sent between UNITA president Adalberto Costa Júnior and the president of Guinea-Bissau about an upcoming meeting, which surfaced in state-aligned online media.1

In June 2020, reports emerged that Angolan intelligence services had purchased Pegasus spyware, which allows users to compromise devices and monitor communications, from the Israeli technology company NSO Group.2 Pegasus was known to have abused vulnerabilities in WhatsApp, the dominant messaging app in Angola that is widely used by journalists, activists and opposition politicians. A 2018 Haaretz investigation found that an unnamed Israeli company had sold social media monitoring software to the Angolan government.3

In December 2019, the government opened the Integrated Center for Public Security (CISP), a surveillance data integration center operated by state security forces, in Luanda. That facility is the first of 16 planned centers to be built around the country.4 The initiative is backed by Chinese funding along with technology from Huawei.5 In November 2020, the head of the External Intelligence Services and Military Information Services informed members of Parliament that the government intends to construct centers to detect cybercrimes.6

A law that permits law enforcement to conduct electronic surveillance and location tracking with minimal oversight came into force in May 2020. The law authorizes the public prosecutor’s office, the National Police, and judges to order and deploy surveillance technology, including spyware and telecommunications interception, in a broad range of circumstances. It prohibits surveillance on political grounds or on the basis of a discriminatory motivation.7 Though it is not yet clear how the law has been applied, Angolans worry it provides legal coverage for existing surveillance practices, with little or no competent oversight of security forces’ use of invasive technology.8

A law that came into effect in January 2020 allows for the installation of surveillance cameras by state security forces without prior authorization. Security agencies are exempted from many of the law’s safeguards,9 raising concerns that the law will expand the government’s surveillance authority, including its capacity to integrate offline and online surveillance through the CISP. The CISP in Luanda, which is reportedly connected to over 700 cameras installed around the city, is equipped with facial recognition technology. 10

Recent investigations have revealed increased engagement with the Chinese government on surveillance methods.11 According to 2017 research by the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law, there is strong suspicion that Chinese companies were providing support to the government’s signals intelligence program on mobile phones and the internet, which aimed to target human rights organizations and defenders as well as grassroots social movements.12 Chinese technology companies Huawei and ZTE have been active in Angola since the 1990s;13 ZTE is reportedly involved with Angola’s military telecommunications.14

In June 2015, WikiLeaks published leaked internal emails from the Italian surveillance equipment company Hacking Team, which revealed efforts by the State Security and Intelligence Service (SINSE) to acquire Hacking Team’s notorious Remote Control System (RCS) in 2013.15 Sold to numerous repressive regimes around the world, RCS spyware has the ability to steal files and passwords and intercept Skype communications, among other features. The documents did not reveal whether the Angolan government eventually purchased or installed the spyware.

C6 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy? 3.003 6.006

Strong state influence in the ownership structure of Angola’s telecommunications companies, particularly mobile service providers, suggests that the authorities are likely able to require service providers to assist in the monitoring of communications.1 Such interweaving of political and business interests through family connections is compounded by the lack of rule of law in the country.

The 2017 Law on Protection of Information Networks and Systems mandates that telecommunications operators store traffic and location data for the “investigation, detection and repression of crimes.” Article 37 requires the approval of a magistrate for the interception of communications by Angola’s security services.2 Article 22 mandates that service providers allow the prosecutor general or a magistrate access to data, including location data, or systems storing information considered “evidence.”3 Article 23 requires telecommunications operators store all data for at least one year.

Law 22/11 on Personal Data Protection has been in place since 2011 and provides the right for data subjects to “access, object to, rectify, update and delete their personal data.”4 Failure to comply with the law by data controllers based or operating in Angola can draw a fine of up to $150,000.

  • 1. Interviews conducted by Freedom House. For instance, the top adviser to the head of the Intelligence Bureau at the Presidency, General Leopoldino do Nascimento, is also the chairman and shareholder of Unitel. Meanwhile, the head of the Intelligence Bureau, General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa,” holds a majority share (about 59 percent) in Movicel. The deputy CEO and Chief Technology Officer of Unitel, Amílcar Safeca, is the brother of Aristides Safeca, the secretary of ICTs who in turn is a shareholder of Movicel.
  • 2. “Diário da República, I Série no. 27 de 16 de Fevereiro de 2017 [Diary of the Republic, series I number 27, February 16, 2017],” Decree from the President of Angola, February 16, 2017, https://www.mtti.gov.ao/verlegislacao.aspx?id=1200.
  • 3. Diário da República, I Série no. 27 de 16 de Fevereiro de 2017 [Diary of the Republic, series I number 27, February 16, 2017],” Decree from the President of Angola, February 16, 2017, https://www.mtti.gov.ao/verlegislacao.aspx?id=1200.
  • 4. Privacy and Information Security Law Blog, “Angola Passes Personal Data Protection Law,” September 19, 2011, https://www.huntonprivacyblog.com/2011/09/19/angola-passes-personal-dat….
C7 1.00-5.00 pts0-5 pts
Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities? 4.004 5.005

Online activists and journalists are sporadically targeted with threats, though they face less violence and harassment than journalists who operate mainly in the traditional media sphere. No incidents of severe violence for online activities were noted during this report’s coverage period.

Women and LGBT+ people face online harassment in Angola. Since the February 2019 decriminalization of same-sex conduct, fewer incidents of harassment against LGBT+ people have been reported.

C8 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? 1.001 3.003

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 due to the increase in cyberattacks and hacking of government servers.

Independent and diaspora news websites have been taken down by technical attacks in the past.

Sources connected to Sonangol state that a June 2019 attack against its servers targeted financial data that may have been left unrecoverable. The attack preceded the results of a journalistic investigation into Isabel dos Santos’s alleged misappropriation of public money, along with her apparent ability to misuse her position as the head of Sonangol, in the so-called “Luanda Leaks” of January 2020.1

Public and private companies in Angola faced more than 1,000 cyberattacks in the first half 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Telecommunications Information and Social Communication Technologies. The main targets were mobile phones and banking apps.2 According to a report from consulting agency Ernst & Young, almost 50 percent of entities surveyed reported an increase in cyberattacks; this trend is expected to persist.3

The Ministry of Finance’s servers were hacked in February 2021, with e-mail accounts and shared folders penetrated by unknown individuals. No services were interrupted, according to the Ministry of Finance, which did not confirm reports of a ransomware case or release information on the extent of the data breach.4 In September 2020, the website of the online news outlet Correio Angolense crashed in response to an apparent distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack; the website remained offline for several weeks. Correio Angolense experienced the attack after publishing a report alleging that President Lourenço’s chief of staff had embezzled millions of dollars in public funds. Simon Casimiro, a journalist who worked on the story, also experienced a cyberattack.5

On Angola

See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    31 100 not free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    62 100 partly free
  • Freedom in the World Status

    Not Free
  • Networks Restricted

    No
  • Websites Blocked

    No
  • Pro-government Commentators

    No
  • Users Arrested

    Yes