Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Following the 2002 cease-fire between the government and UNITA rebels, media restrictions have become less stringent. But despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press, the Press Law restricts that freedom and government pledges to reform media legislation have not yet been realized. Libel of the president or his representatives is a criminal offense, punishable by high fines or imprisonment. In March, the editor of the independent weekly magazine Semanario Angolense was sentenced to either 45 days in jail or to pay a fine for defamation. He was also forced to pay a large fine directly to one of the accusers. Particularly in the interior of the country, the judicial system has little independence to enforce legislation guaranteeing press freedom. Authorities can suspend a publication for up to a year if it has published three articles that lead to defamation convictions within a three-year period. The Law on State Secrecy permits the government to classify information, at times unnecessarily, and those who publish classified information are persecuted. Private media are often denied access to official information or events. A special committee has policy and censorship authority over the media.
The government tolerated increasing criticism from private media during 2004. But improvements in media freedom are confined largely to Luanda, and in the interior of the country the situation remains troubling. Although less common than in previous years, arbitrary detention, harassment, and attacks on journalists continued to take place. In April, an Angola News Agency journalist was beaten by the police in Saurimo and then detained for one day, despite having presented press credentials. The Catholic Church's Radio Ecclesia, a source of independent news, is frequently harassed by the government and has been barred from extending its broadcasts to other areas of the country. For fear of reprisals, many journalists practice self-censorship. Foreign media are able to operate with fewer government restrictions. However, journalists must first secure work visas to enter the country and then must receive authorization from the Ministry of the Interior to meet government officials or travel within Angola.
The government continues to dominate both print and broadcast media. The largest media sources are state run and carry little criticism of government officials. The official Radio Nacional de Angola has the widest coverage; the state also controls the only nonsatellite television station and owns the only daily newspaper. The capital, Luanda, has four private radio stations operating under government license. The private press, often viewed as the only section of the media to reflect diverse political views, is growing slowly; in 2003, four new weekly newspapers were established. However, the seven private weeklies have low circulation and face financial constraints as well as high costs of production and distribution. Few outside the capital can afford private newspapers. Internet access is unrestricted and is available in several provincial capitals.