Angola: Government cracks down on TV station for airing Savimbi interview

August 16, 1999

His Excellency Pedro Hendrik Vaal Neto
Minister of Social Communications
Luanda, Angola

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom worldwide, is once again writing to protest your government’s brutal repression of the independent Angolan press.

On August 9, 1999, four plainclothes police officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (DNIC) raided the studios of Radio Ecclesia, a Roman Catholic FM station in Luanda, while the station was rebroadcasting a BBC interview with UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi. Armed with search and arrest warrants, the police officers seized Radio Ecclesia’s transmission equipment and the recording of the BBC interview. They then arrested chief editor Paulo Juliao and two other Radio Ecclesia journalists, Laurinda Tavares and Filipe Joaquim.

The three men were held at DNIC headquarters for about four hours and were interrogated separately. The interrogators accused them of “disseminating dangerous information” and “threatening public security,” and questioned them about their political views.

On August 10, DNIC officers re-arrested Juliao along with Antonio Jaka, Radio Ecclesia’s director, and Emanuel da Mata, another journalist at the radio station. This followed another rebroadcast of the Savimbi interview in Radio Ecclesia’s midday news program. The DNIC also detained BBC journalist Reginaldo da Silva for questioning because he had passed on the interview tape to Radio Ecclesia. Police later seized another copy of the tape from da Silva’s house.

Three Angolan state television journalists were also interrogated on August 10 because their network had rebroadcast the same Savimbi interview. All the arrested journalists were released later that day, but the authorities forced Radio Ecclesia to sign an agreement that it would not refer to Jonas Savimibi or UNITA on the air without prior permission from the government.

Radio Ecclesia was accused of having violated “the internal and external security of the state” under Angola’s notorious Law 7/78, also known as the Law on Crimes against State Security. As Your Excellency is no doubt aware, Law 7/78 violates Article 35 of the 1992 Angolan Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. However, the absence of a functioning Constitutional Court in Angola means that Law 7/78 cannot be challenged at this time.

Nor is the Radio Ecclesia case an isolated incident. On the contrary, many Angolan journalists have told CPJ that the prevailing climate of harassment and repression makes them afraid to do their work.

CPJ was encouraged by Your Exellency’s letter of June 23, 1999, in which you assured us that the government of Angola had never intended to “harass any journalist or shut down the private media.” To our dismay, however, the independent press in Angola has been subjected to even harsher constraints in recent weeks. Your government’s repeated infringements of press freedom violate both the Angolan Constitution and Angola’s obligations under international law.

We therefore call on you to affirm the right of journalists in Angola to cover all political points of view, and not simply those of the government. CPJ further urges Your Excellency to ensure that journalists in Angola are free to practice their profession without censorship or fear of reprisal. This would be welcome evidence that Your Excellency’s government is indeed doing something to “guarantee to the entire Angolan nation a totally democratic regime,” as you wrote so eloquently in your letter.

CPJ would, once again, be very grateful for your comments on these matters.


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

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His Excellency Pedro Hendrik Vaal Neto
Minister of Social Communications
Luanda, Angola