News

March 15, 2017

Angolan satellite TV service drops two Portuguese channels

Isabel Dos Santos, propriétaire de ZAP ©Affaires
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the decision by Angola’s biggest satellite TV provider, ZAP, to drop two Portuguese news channels and voices concern about the clampdown on freedom of information in Angola five months ahead of general elections.


Owned by Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of President Eduardo dos Santos, ZAP dropped the SIC Noticias and SIC Internacional TV channels yesterday.


The company described the move as no more than a routine adjustment of the channels it offers. But the move came just days after SIC broadcast an investigative report about a 2014 financial scandal implicating the president.


SIC previously annoyed the government last November by broadcasting a report entitled, “Angola, a country rich with 20 million poor people,” which questioned the record of Dos Santos’ 37 years as president.


Dos Santos subsequently said he no longer wanted to stand for reelection in August 2017 and named Gen. Joâo Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, a former defence minister, as the ruling party’s presidential candidate.


“It is hard not to see the government’s hand behind ZAP’s unilateral decision to drop these two TV channels,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “With just months to go to the presidential election, the government should encourage media pluralism by allowing the Angolan media to work freely.”


In Angola, the Dos Santos family and its allies control all state and privately-owned media that cover the entire country. Aside from a few small opposition media outlets, freely reported news and information can only be found online – on one or two websites and social networks. But they are also subjected to pressure.


Rafael Marques, a journalist who edits the Maka Angola anti-corruption website, received a summons from the interior ministry last December after posting a story accusing prosecutor general João Maria de Sousa of involvement in illegal land deals. Mariano Bras, a journalist who reprinted the story in his weekly O Crime, was also summoned. Both are facing a possible six-month jail sentence for criminal defamation.


Years of lawsuits and criminal proceedings against Marques by the Angolan army in both Angola and Portugal finally ended in 2015. Marques was facing up to 14 years in prison on 24 counts in connection with his book “Diamantes de Sangue, Corrupção e Tortura em Angola,” which accused the army of involvement in diamond trafficking.


Although the book is censored, its publisher has made it available online and it can be downloaded from RSF’s website.


The suspensions and legal proceedings have coincided with disturbing measures to curtail civil liberties. Under a package of “social communication” laws passed last November, full control over the country’s media was awarded to a Regulatory Council that is dominated by the ruling-party.


Seventeen young people were arrested in March 2016 and were imprisoned for several months just for reading and commenting on a book about non-violent action.


Angola is ranked 123rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.