Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Angola
As of December 31,1998


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Against the backdrop of an endless war that has killed more than half a million Angolans and devastated the economy, the country's journalists are under constant threat of death as they attempt to strengthen their profession and provide uncensored information in a treacherous environment. Since 1994, five journalists have been murdered in Angola -- all of them known for their critical reporting on President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government.

The most recent victim, Simao Roberto, a reporter with the state-owned newspaper Jornal de Angola, was gunned down in broad daylight on June 5. To date, none of perpetrators of these crimes has been brought to justice, confirming the country's reputation as one of the most dangerous for journalists, and one where those who use violence to silence the press do so with impunity.

The 1994 Lusaka Accords, designed to end nearly three decades of civil war between the MPLA and the rebel National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), led by Jonas Savimbi, are effectively dead. The two groups' 1997 power-sharing agreement, known as the Government of National Unity, has collapsed. Elections are scheduled for 2000, but it appears unlikely that the electoral process will function properly as long as the war between the government and UNITA rages on.

Although Angola's constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press, the government chooses to ignore violations of these rights, and continues to censor the media. Anonymous death threats and the specter of government bans shadow independent journalists who probe state affairs. And the few independent privately run publications have been targets of violent reprisal. For example, in February, arsonists set fire to the Luanda-based independent weekly Agora.

The practice of self-censorship is common at the state-owned Radio Nacional, Televisao Publica de Angola, Jornal de Angola, and the news agency Angop. All government journalists are on notice from Minister of Mass Communication Hendrick Vall Neto: If they publish or broadcast any reports that are considered critical of the state, they face certain detention on criminal libel charges.

While two privately owned radio stations have been operating in Luanda, and one each in Benguela, Cabinda, and Huila, only Radio 2000 and Radio Ecclesia, a Catholic station, are considered truly independent. The 1997 ban on Radio 2000's broadcast of the Voice of America's Portugal-to-Africa program, "Linha Directa, Linha Aberta" (Direct Line, Open Line), remains in effect.
Attacks on the Press in Angola in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
6/5/98 Simao Roberto, Journal de Angola Killed
4/3/98 Victoria Ferreira, Folha 8 Imprisoned
4/3/98 Felisberto Neto, Folha 8 Imprisoned

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