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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Angola: Press Freedom Alert

Angola: Press Freedom Alert
Date distributed (ymd): 991024
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains several documents related to press freedom in Angola, all supplied by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA). The most recent is an alert from MISA concerning the detention of journalist Rafael Marques, who is also the coordinator of the Angola office of the Open Society Initiative in Southern Africa and a leading figure in the Angolan Group of Reflection for Peace (GARP), which released a statement earlier this year calling for engagement of civil society in a new peace process in Angola ( Marques' detention has also been protested by other international media and human rights organizations.

The posting also contains two other documents distributed by MISA from the International Colloquium for a Pluralist Media in the PALOP Countries [Portuguese-speaking African countries], held in Maputo October 5-8, 1999: the conference declaration, and a resolution in solidarity with Angolan journalists. The archives on the MISA web site ( provide additional background information.

Other recent links with documents of interest on Angola:

Angola Peace Monitor, 29 September 1999

Campaign launched to stop billion dollar diamond trade from
funding conflict in Africa

Cautious welcome for De Beers Angolan diamond embargo

Horace G. Campbell, "Jonas Savimbi Must be Arrested and Put on
Trial", Black Radical Congress News
[to read this file, you must on your first visit "join" brcnews and set preferences to "read on the web."]

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For more information on the following documents: Raashied Galant
MISA Researcher
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Private Bag 13386
Windhoek, Namibia
Tel. +264 61 232975, Fax. 248016

Angola Alert Update
October 21, 1999

Journalist remains in detention, procedural irregularities surrounding his continued detention

Journalist Rafael Marques, who was arrested at his home on October 16, remains in incommunicado detention in Luanda. Neither his lawyer or relatives have been allowed access to him since his detention and it is believed that he is on hunger strike.

Marques' lawyer, Luis Nascimento, has pointed out at least two procedural irregularities in the continued detention of Marques. The first is that no-one is being allowed access to him, and the second is that the Attorney General has refused to attend to an application for bail, which was prepared on October 18, apparently because the A.G. is "attending a conference". Marques' lawyer is currently considering applying for a writ of harbeus corpus to both secure his release and address the procedural irregularities surrounding his continued detention.

According to Angolan law, Marques can be detained for up to 15 days without being brought to trial.


Marques, who is also the coordinator of the Angolan office of the Open Society Initiative in Southern Africa, was charged on October 14 with defaming President dos Santos, for having referred to him as a dictator in a July 3,1999 article published in "Folha 8". The article entitled, "The Big Stick of Dictatorship", said that Do Santos was "responsible for the destruction of the country and the promotion of corruption".

Marques has apparently been charged under Angola's notorious Law 7/78, also known as the Law on Crimes Against State Security. 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. The charge against Marques carries a 2-8 year prison sentence.

In an address by Angolan lawyer Dr Maria Pereira to a Media Lawyers Conference in Windhoek in August this year, Dr Pereira pointed out that in terms of the Press Law, defamation of the President was a criminal offence. The law further gave no or very weak options of defence for a journalist accused of defaming the President. According to Pereira, "Once the president claims defamation, it is accepted that the facts have been proven." As a result, the only type of defence a journalist can put forward when faced with this charge, is to prove that s/he was not the author of the article. This situation exists only in the case of a claim of defamation against the President of the Republic, a foreign head of state or a representative of a foreign head of state.


Write to the President:

  • Strongly protesting the incommunicado detention of Rafael Marques, and demanding his immediate release either unconditionally or on bail;
  • Protesting the procedural irregularities surrounding Marques' detention, noting that a detainee should have a right of access to his family and lawyer and a right to bail;
  • Calling on the President to ensure that the due process of the law is complied with and that the rights of the detainee are upheld with respect to Marques;
  • Strongly protesting the charge of Defamation of the President now facing Marques;
  • Pointing out that numerous court judgments around the world have held that an integral part of democracy is that those who hold office in government and who are responsible for public administration must always be open to criticism;
  • further pointing out that the President has an array of options available to counter alleged defamation such as media retraction, media statements, and other options involving the right of reply;
  • Stressing that the charging of Marques with Defamation of the President amounts to political censorship in that it seeks to punish him for expressing his views about the government and the President in particular;
  • Pointing out that such an action is completely contrary to the international treaties and obligations which guarantee the right to freedom of expression, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Angola is a signatory.
  • Calling on the President, as the apparent complainant in this case, to immediately withdraw the charges against Marques.

Send letters to:

Hon Jose Eduardo dos Santos
President of the People's Republic of Angola
Fax: +244 2 392 733/ 391 476/ 331 898

Maputo Declaration for a Pluralist Media in the PALOP Countries

(The PALOP countries are the five African countries which use Portuguese as official language. The countries are: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome e Principe.)

International Colloquium
For a Pluralist Media in the PALOP Countries

5-8 October 1999

Maputo Declaration


Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and particularly its 19th article, which states that "all persons have the right to freedom of opinion and expression";

Recalling the Constitutive Act of UNESCO which, in its first article, mentions "collaboration between nations with the purpose of ensuring universal respect for justice, for law, for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all";

Recalling the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights, articles of which state that "save for reasons of public order, no person shall be subjected to measures seeking to restrict the expression of his freedoms", and that "all persons have the right to information"

Recalling the Windhoek Declaration of 3 May 1991 for the promotion of an independent and pluralist African media;

Considering the restrictions and obstacles to independence and to pluralism in the media which continue to occur within the PALOP countries for political, legal, institutional, economic and social reasons;

Considering the efforts of leaders of the sub-regions that include PALOP members, namely SADC (Southern African Development Community), ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States), and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States);

Considering the determinant role played by a pluralist media in forming persons, opinions and consciences, and in establishing greater democracy and a culture of peace;

Considering the various national and international instruments guaranteeing freedom of expression, of opinion and of the press, which have been recognised and ratified by the PALOP member states;

We, journalists and participants attending the International Colloquium "For a Pluralist Media in the PALOP", organised by the Panos Institute, which met from 5 to 8 October 1999, in Maputo, Mozambique,


That media professionals should

  1. Ensure better organisation in order to respond to the challenges of their mission to inform the public objectively and truthfully;
  2. Propose to the authorities draft legislation to improve the exercise of the profession, the performance of the media, and its independence and pluralism;
  3. Demand that they participate in drafting all laws and regulations concerning professional activity and the behaviour of the media;
  4. Draw up an inventory of the existing legislation for comparative analysis and publication;
  5. Create a network for exchange of publications, press alerts, radio signals, and websites on the Internet;
  6. Create a media observatory to monitor the sector in the PALOP countries;
  7. Set up a forum of socio-professional organisations of the PALOP countries;
  8. Adopt a code of conduct to guide professionals and the media in conflict situations;
  9. Adopt measures giving women more access to newsrooms:

That the PALOP governments should:

  1. Respect constitutionally-enshrined freedoms and guarantees, particularly freedom of the press, the right to information, and the free exercise of the profession of journalism;
  2. Draft complementary legislation to strengthen the practice of journalism, particularly as regards access to the professional career, and to sources of public information;
  3. Draft legislation that strengthens editorial independence and the transparency of appointments to leadership positions in the public sector of the mass media;
  4. Draft legislation to ensure that radio and television operating licences and frequencies are allocated by an independent body;
  5. Draft legislation on community radios, enshrining the principles of "from, by and to the community", non-profit making objectives, the need to ensure sustainability, and non interference by the State or by other powers in their activities;
  6. Draft complementary legislation establishing in depth the regimes for media ownership by associations and co-operatives;
  7. Draft legislation and norms on reduced telecommunications, postal and transport tariffs for the media; customs exemptions for the import of equipment and raw material destined for the mass media; customs exemptions and distribution facilities for newspapers within the PALOP area; tax incentives, bank credit and the establishment of a symbolic fee for Internet access, taking into account the educational nature of the media and the public service it provides, and the need to stimulate pluralism and diversity in the sector;
  8. Draw up norms to regulate the use of advertising in the public sector of the mass media in order to end situations of monopoly and unfair competition, thus ensuring greater pluralism and diversity in the sector;
  9. Eliminate practices conducive to blocking and boycotting the opening of new radio stations, and the allocation of licences and frequencies;
  10. Exempt journalists of PALOP countries on assignments from entry visa requirements;
  11. Propose the inclusion in the OAU Charter of the provisions of the Geneva Convention and of the International Red Cross concerning the treatment that should be accorded to media professionals in conflict situations;
  12. Ensure greater commitment from the government officials charged with establishing, in partnership with UNESCO, the Training School for PALOP Media Professionals;
  13. Ensure uniform representation of the mass media sector in their relationship with other states or with multilateral bodies;
  14. Define policies and strategies to support the media in connection with PALOP citizens in the Diaspora;
  15. Support PALOP media production institutions so as to contribute to greater equity and participation in the programming of RTP-Africa and RDP-Africa;
  16. Define policies and strategies that allow more women to gain access to training and to a professional career in the media.

That development partners should:

  1. Support the creation of an Internet network for the circulation of publications, radio signals, alerts about press freedom violations, and other materials produced in the PALOP countries; support the creation of a PALOP Internet website for publicising media activities; support the publication of a liaison bulletin for the exchange of information and documentation, particularly media legislation;
  2. Open RTP-Africa and RDP-Africa and national public radio and television stations to production from the PALOP independent private sector;
  3. Eliminate the discrimination against the independent sector of the PALOP media shown by official Portuguese co-operation, particularly in terms of technical assistance and equipment;
  4. Support the provision of scholarships for media professionals and technical staff;
  5. Support local training by PALOP trainers;
  6. Support the creation of new media as a way of increasing pluralism and diversity, paying particular attention to the situation in Sao Tome and Principe;
  7. Support the establishment of printing presses that contribute to greater independence in the production of new media;
  8. Support the creation of a forum of socio-professional bodies of the PALOP mass media sector.

In conclusion, we request the PANOS Institute and other partners, particularly UN agencies (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA), and international associations of media professionals to accompany and support implementation of the present recommendations.


8 October 1999

Resolution in Solidarity with Angolan Journalists

Mass media officials, executives from the publicly and privately owned media, journalists, representatives of community media from the PALOP countries, and representatives of bilateral and multilateral co-operation bodies, meeting from 5-8 October 1999 in Maputo, Mozambique, during the International Colloquium "For a Pluralist Media in the PALOP", organised by the Panos Institute:

Concerned at the negative consequences of the war in Angola for the free exercise of the profession of journalism in that country, and aware of repeated coercive measures in recent months, including systematic detentions and interrogations of journalists, a situation which even prevented some Angolan journalists from participating in this colloquium;

Convinced that a free and pluralist media is incompatible with any measures of pressure and intimidation;

Convinced of the important role that the independent mass media can play in consolidating democracy in Angola, particularly in promoting political and social stability in the country;

Expressing their solidarity with the Angolan journalists who are the victims of repressive and discriminatory measures;


  1. To condemn strongly the campaign of harassment and intimidation by the police against several Angolan mass media professionals;
  2. To call upon the Angolan authorities to ensure that the independent Angola media enjoys security in the exercise of its professional activities, in accordance with the country's existing legal norms;
  3. To urge the Angolan authorities to respect the legal provisions that govern journalists' activities, namely the Constitution, the Press Law, and the Journalists' Statute, and not to link the exercise of this profession to the Law on Crimes against State Security;

Adopted in Maputo on 8 October 1999

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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