The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press; however, state dominance of most media outlets, minimal private media outside of Luanda, and self-censorship by journalists limited these rights in practice.
For example, according to independent Web site Club-K, news about the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt was censored for fear that it might prompt comparisons to President dos Santos’ 32-year rule. MPLA leaders Dino Matross and Rui Falcao spoke to private radio station LAC warning that the government would crack down if similar protests were to take place in the country.
Freedom of Speech: Individual citizens reported practicing self-censorship but generally were able to criticize the government without fear of direct reprisals. The government engaged in subtle repression and economic coercion, often in the form of withdrawing business or job opportunities, to discourage criticism. An NGO reported that citizens often curtailed their support of an opposition political party because they would suffer reprisal from MPLA supporters.
On September 1, a group of young people stated that they were asked by authorities to postpone their public protest against dos Santos scheduled for September 3. The group’s leader, Carbono Casimiro, wrote an open letter in which he claimed that the government offered him $270,000 and eight cars if he would cancel the demonstration.
Freedom of Press: There were 12 privately owned weekly newspapers and four Luanda-based commercial radio stations. All but three of these publications, Folha 8, Angolense, and Agora, were rumored to be owned by groups or individuals tied to the government. Nongovernment radio stations could broadcast only in provinces where they physically established antennas. Only government-owned Radio Nacional was allowed to use repeaters to expand signal reach and was thus the only station broadcasting in much of the country. As a result most private radio stations could reach audiences only in Luanda. Radio Mais, whose ownership included individuals associated with the ruling party, also broadcast in Huambo and Benguela. Radio 2000, whose owners were also suspected to be connected to the ruling party, operated in Huila.
Private radio and print media criticized the government openly and at times harshly, but at their peril. Local journalists were not able to criticize government officials, particularly the president, without fear of arrest or harassment.
The government also restricted nationwide independent broadcasting through licensing laws. However, despite such restrictive laws, Radio Mais broadcast to three provinces outside Luanda. During the year Radio Ecclesia negotiated with the Ministry of Social Communication to expand its broadcast range to five provinces, but at year’s end it still broadcast only in Luanda. State-owned Radio Nacional opened multiple community-based radio stations during the year, including the popular Radio Cazenga.
Official news outlets, including Angolan Public Television, favored the ruling party. Opposition parties were given limited access to state-owned media and were asked to pay in exchange for coverage of their events and statements.
Violence and Harassment: During the year authorities arrested, harassed, and intimidated journalists. For example, on March 7, police detained three journalists from the independent weekly newspaper Novo Jornal, for attempting to cover a planned protest (see section on freedom of assembly). They were later released without being charged.
In October Voice of America reporter Jose Manuel Gimbi was searched for by what were presumed to be plainclothes officials who went door to door in his neighborhood. He was not home or harmed, but he filed a complaint with local authorities. This case was erroneously reported by some local and international human rights groups as a threat on Gimbi’s life.
There was no new information at year’s end on the six cases of journalists robbed, attacked, or killed in September and October 2010.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: There were reports security forces interfered with journalists’ attempts to take pictures or video during the year. For example, during a September 3 demonstration, journalists reported plainclothes individuals believed to be linked to the police stole or destroyed cameras and media equipment.
Visitors were warned during the year not to take photographs of any government-affiliated buildings or persons because security forces might seize their cameras or detain them.
Human rights activists and journalists practiced self-censorship.
Libel Laws/National Security: Defamation is a crime punishable by imprisonment or a fine. Accuracy is not an acceptable defense against defamation charges; the accused must provide evidence proving the validity of the allegedly damaging material.
In 2009 journalist Armando Chicoca was accused of defaming the president of the provincial court of Namibe Province, Antonio Vissandule. On March 3, Chicoca was sentenced to one year in prison for criminal defamation. At year’s end he was out of jail on bail.
On October 10, William Tonet, editor of the private newspaper Folha 8, was convicted of criminal libel against high-level officials by the Luanda provincial court. The case pertained to an article Folha 8 published in 2008 alleging these officials had gained control of diamond mines in Lunda Norte Province without public, competitive bidding. Tonet appealed, but he was initially sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of $100,000.
Publishing Restrictions: The minister of social communication, the spokesperson of the presidency, and the national director of information maintained significant decision-making authority over the media.