Angola | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Angola

Angola

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

63

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

23

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

21

Despite constitutional guarantees, freedom of the press is restricted in Angola. A 2006 Press Law ended the state monopoly on television broadcasting; partially opened the FM bandwidth to independent broadcasters; called for the creation of an independent public broadcaster; rescinded travel restrictions on journalists; and allowed journalists to use the truth defense in libel and defamation trials. However, the law also includes several restrictive provisions concerning journalists’ access to information, the right to practice journalism and to establish new media outlets, and the registration of both journalists and media outlets with the government. Moreover, the government has yet to implement legislation required for the execution of the more positive reforms (including application for independent television and radio licenses). Libel of the president or his representatives remains a criminal offense, punishable by high fines and imprisonment. In September, Graca Campos—director of the private weekly Semanario Angolense—was found guilty of criminally defaming a former minister of justice, Paulo Chipilica. Campos was sentenced to an eight-month jail term and fined 18.7 million kwanza (US$250,000); he was released in November pending an appeal.

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. Particularly in the interior of the country, the judicial system has little independence to enforce legislation guaranteeing press freedom. The Law on State Secrecy permits the government to classify information, at times unnecessarily, and prosecute those who publish classified information. Private media are often denied access to official information or events.

Although generally tolerant of criticism from private media, officials often pressure independent media to cover the government in a more favorable light. While less common than in previous years, arbitrary detention, harassment, and attacks on journalists continue to take place. For fear of reprisals, many journalists practice self-censorship, particularly outside of Luanda, the capital. In late December, a reporter for Radio Ecclesia—an outspoken Roman Catholic radio station—was sentenced to 30 days in prison for “inciting violence and disobedience” while covering a street vendor protest in Namibe. Foreign media are able to operate with fewer government restrictions than their local counterparts. 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. While a few of the six privately owned weekly newspapers do routinely criticize the government, the largest media sources are the state-run outlets that allow very little criticism of government officials. The official Radio Nacional de Angola is the only radio station with national coverage; other radio stations, including the four based in Luanda, may broadcast only in their home province. The state also controls the only nonsatellite television station. While the new Press Law opens television broadcasting to the private sector, the effective promulgation and implementation of the law is another matter. Four private radio stations operate under government license from Luanda. The country’s 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 generally unrestricted and is available in several provincial capitals, though less than 1 percent of the population was able to make use of this medium owing to cost constraints.