The death of Jonas Savimbi, the historic leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), killed by the armed forces in February 2002, dominated the state-owned radio and TV news programmes for several weeks. An opposition party criticised the repeated screening on television of gruesome footage of Savimbi’s dead body.
The peace accord signed by the armed forces and UNITA on 4 April did not make a great difference to press freedom in Angola. While the privately-owned news media have gradually been winning more freedom, the same cannot be said for the state-owned news media which continued to be dominated by the government’s propaganda.
On 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, deputy communications minister Manuel Augusto ruled out any possibility of having more than one news agency in Angola. He said most countries had only one agency, owned by the state. Angola’s only news agency is ANGOP, which is publicly funded. Asked if broadcasting would be liberalized in Angola, where the only TV channel is state-owned, Augusto said opening it up to the private sector would need a constitutional amendment.
Revision of the June 1991 press law, urged by press organisations for many years, finally got under way. A presidential decree in June 2002 named a technical commission to draft a new press law. A month later, the communications minister announced that the commission had been set up with the aim of "ensuring that press freedom is practised in a democratic, transparent and fair manner in Angola."
President Dos Santos opened a training centre for journalists in September. Going back over the obstacles to freedom of expression in recent years, he stressed that no journalist is jailed in Angola. He voiced a desire for a professionalisation of the print media, especially the low-circulation ones, in the coming months.
New information on a journalist killed before 2002
A Luanda court sentenced three persons to 24 years in prison at the end of November 2002 for the murder on 31 August 1999 of two employees of the state-owned Radio Nacional de Angola (RNA), one of them a journalist. Two other fugitives from justice were given the same sentence in absentia. Mauricio Cristovao, a journalist with Radio 5 (RNA’s sports radio station), had been gunned down a few metres from his home in Luanda. Adriano Da Costa, the head of RNA’s legal department, had also been shot dead on a Luanda street.
Four journalists killed
A military helicopter crashed in Kwanza Norte province (east of Luanda) on 2 June 2002 killing 19 persons including two journalists from the national television station and two from the national radio station. The army did not explain what caused the crash.
Pressure and obstacles
Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques was sentenced on 23 January 2002 to pay the equivalent of US$1,000 to President Dos Santos as libel damages for a 1999 article headlined "The dictatorship’s big stick" in which he blamed the president for the national crisis. He was sentenced to six months in prison and a heavy fine in March. He immediately appealed and, after 40 days in detention, he was released and his sentence was suspended pending the outcome of his appeal.
On 29 May, Attorney General Domingos Culolo threatened to bring charges against Batista Marta, a reporter with the government daily Jornal de Angola, for reporting that prisoners were still being held several years after completing their sentences in the southwestern prison of Bentiaba. Culolo accused Marta of doing the nation a disservice.
Manuel Vieria, the correspondent of the Catholic Church radio station Radio Ecclesia in the southern city of Lubango, was summoned by the Criminal Investigation Department on 31 May and questioned about a report on UNITA demobilisation camps. The spokesperson of the military mixed commission set up to implement the April peace accords had been quoted by Vieria as saying that 45 persons had died in two days in the camps.
The correspondent of the Voice of America (VOA) in Cabinda was visited by two members of the provincial Directorate of Criminal Investigations on 20 November. They took him to their office and questioned him about a report on an oil company’s concern for the security of its employees because of crime in the region.
The Eduardo dos Santos Foundation (FESA) said in late November that it would sue the privately-owned weekly Agora for "libel" and "falsifying documents" for reporting in an article that two Angolese women who had been arrested with a million dollars at Rio de Janeiro airport in Brazil were on a mission for FESA.