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ANGOLA: Rights group condemn press freedoms as window dressing

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  • ausetkmt
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    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 16, 2006
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      --- IRIN <IRIN@...> wrote:

      > From: "IRIN" <IRIN@...>
      > To: "RE Ausetkmt" <ausetkmt@...>
      > Subject: ANGOLA: Rights group condemn press freedoms as window dressing
      > Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2006 04:57:28 -0700
      >
      > ANGOLA: Rights group condemn press freedoms as window dressing
      >
      > [This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
      >
      >
      > LUANDA, 16 November (IRIN) - As Angola began voter registration this week, ahead of
      > its first elections in over a decade, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the government
      > to do more to ensure that the press, essential to the validity of the poll, is able
      > to operate more freely.
      >
      > A new media law passed in May promised much-needed reforms but failed to protect
      > press freedoms adequately, the watchdog's report, 'Still Not Fully Protected: Rights
      > to Freedom of Expression and Information under Angola's New Press Law', said on
      > Thursday.
      >
      > "Unless the Angolan government brings its press law up to international standards,
      > freedom of the press in the election period will be compromised," Peter Takirambudde,
      > Africa director at HRW, said in a press release. "The government urgently needs to
      > approve further legislation to fully implement reforms already set out in its new
      > Press Law."
      >
      > Voter registration started on Wednesday and is set to run until June next year,
      > meaning that Angola's first ballot since 1992 - which has already been delayed
      > repeatedly - could theoretically take place in 2007.
      >
      > Improvements to the press law included the elimination of the state monopoly over
      > television, paving the way for the emergence of private broadcasters, but the
      > licensing procedures were too bureaucratic and largely subject to the discretion of
      > government, HRW said. The law also defined criminal conduct by journalists in unclear
      > and sweeping terms, established "excessive" penalties for transgressions and still
      > criminalised defamation.
      >
      > Regulations explaining how the law would work in practice would help. "It's not just
      > the law that's important, it is also the implementation of the law. Until there is a
      > complete picture the press doesn't know how to act," one political analyst, who asked
      > not to be named, told IRIN.
      >
      > "The law guarantees certain freedoms but in the provinces newspapers are seized if
      > the local administration doesn't like what they say and journalists get called in to
      > see the governor if they don't like what they read or hear. These kinds of
      > restrictions are outside the law but routinely happen," the source added.
      >
      > State-owned media currently dominates the flow of information in Angola, especially
      > in the provinces outside Luanda.
      >
      > Radio is a powerful medium in a country where nearly 40 percent of the population is
      > illiterate, but only the state's Radio Nacional de Angola broadcasts nationally.
      > Despite assurances from the government that the Catholic Church's Radio Ecclesia
      > could also transmit across Angola, it has not yet been allowed to set up transmitters
      > enabling it to do so.
      >
      > Media watchers say a lack of press freedom is likely to be a problem in ensuring a
      > plurality of information reaches all voters. "The whole population needs to know what
      > is going on with elections, but what is happening is that only the official message
      > will reach much of the country," Pedro Neto, president of the Media Institute of
      > Southern Africa (MISA) in Angola, told IRIN.
      >
      > "This means no other opinions and information will reach most parts of the country.
      > But we are trying, through the regulations of the new law, to see if we are able to
      > improve the situation," he added.
      >
      > Since Angola's 27-year civil war ended in 2002, the oil-rich country has enjoyed an
      > investment boom, and the government has rolled out an ambitious reconstruction plan.
      > When elections are finally held, the main political rival to the ruling MPLA party,
      > led by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, will be the former rebel movement, UNITA.
      >
      > However, many questions about the ballot are unanswered, including whether Dos Santos
      > will run as the MPLA candidate, whether presidential and legislative ballots will be
      > held simultaneously, and when the vote will actually take place.
      >
      > Observers fear that if the media is not given proper license to operate in the period
      > running up to the poll, its legitimacy could be affected. "Without real freedom of
      > the press, it would be hard to consider an election free, fair and transparent," said
      > the political analyst.
      >
      > ze/oa/go/he
      >
      >
      > [ENDS]
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