The press had recovered much of its freedom after the end of fighting in 2002 and this trend continued in 2003. Nonetheless, the opposition newspapers were closely monitored
This was the calmest year for Angola’s journalists since the civil war began in 1975. The April 2002 peace accord between the Angolan armed forces and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) had an immediate impact on press freedom. Overnight, taboos were lifted, there was room to breathe and journalists could work without constant fear of a crackdown. In December 2003, President José Eduardo dos Santos announced his intention to amend the press law and end the state monopoly of television.
Hitherto preoccupied with press freedom violations, press unions began to look at work conditions. There were demands for more pay, especially in the state-owned media, and unions talked of the right to strike for the first time since Angola became independent.
Expanded cooperation with Portugal and the use of new technologies enabled the state-owned media to modernise, win more readers and viewers, and increase their profile in 2003. The news agency ANGOP was able to distribute its service more easily, while the public television service was broadcast abroad, thanks in particular to the help of Portugal’s public broadcaster RTP. The government also began a major training programme for the state and privately-owned press.
Two journalists detained
Alexei Pobortsev and Stanislav Skripnik of the Russian television channel NTV were detained at Luanda airport on 16 August 2003 on the grounds that they had business visas instead of press visas. After being held for about 10 hours, they were put on a flight to Moscow. NTV insisted that their papers were in order.
A journalist physically attacked
Police manhandled Domingos Pedro of the government news agency ANGOP in the northeastern province of Lunda Sul in March 2003 while he was investigating a murder. The national police chief later apologised.
Harassment and obstruction
The political bureau of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) on 15 January 2003 called on the weekly Angolense to produce evidence for its allegations in an article entitled "Wealth changes colour" that 59 Angolan leaders - mostly MPLA members - had accumulated property with a combined worth of more than 50 million dollars. The MPLA called the claims "dubious" and said their publication was "unpatriotic" at a time when the government was trying to raise international funding to revive the economy.
A few days later, the Union of Angolan Journalists (UJA) voiced support for Angolense and said its articles accorded with the right to information and the right to press freedom. On 22 January, the president’s office insisted that the newspaper’s allegations were false. Angolense stopped publishing in early March, giving serious financial problems as its reason. Immediately afterwards, a new weekly called Semanário Angolense appeared, with almost the same staff.
The social communication minister on 14 February accused the Catholic-run Radio Ecclesia of "defamation and false propaganda against official personalities and public institutions" and "terrorist discourse." Human rights activists staged a demonstration three days later, calling on the government to stop putting pressure on news media considered to be pro-opposition.