When You Can’t Shoot, Sue!

Recently, the Angolan ruling party MPLA proposed, in Parliament, that the outgoing President and Vice-President be given absolute immunity from prosecution for any crimes they committed while in office. Consequently, within days the regime has launched new indictments against whistle-blower and human rights defender, Rafael Marques de Morais. Rafael Marques de Morais is the fearless, award-winning editor of the online news site Maka Angola. It focuses on  investigating and publishing citizens’ complaints about the all-too-common cases of corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations in oil-rich Angola. He has been a thorn in the side of Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos, who has amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune for himself, his family and his loyal supporters in the ruling MPLA party. Meanwhile, only permitting a trickle of the country’s oil wealth to be used for the benefit of the people he was supposed to serve. Outside Angola, the […]

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Constitutional Challenge to Angola’s New Media Laws

The main Angolan opposition party, UNITA, is launching a legal challenge to the MPLA government’s latest attempt to gag criticism of the regime. In a petition to the Constitutional Court, UNITA argues that specific clauses of the MPLA media law are simply unconstitutional and calls on the Court to issue a ruling to that effect. The Angolan Constitution, rewritten in 2010, affirms the right to freedom of expression under Article 44 stating explicitly “Freedom of the press is guaranteed, and cannot be subjected to any prior censorship of a political, ideological or artistic nature.” It goes on: “The state will ensure pluralism of expression and guarantee different ownership and editorial diversity in the media. UNITA argues that the Constitution does not contemplate the possibility of any law attempting to restrict the freedom of the press. The current legal set-up makes it impossible for any individual or organization other than a […]

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The Death Knell for Freedom of the Press in Angola

January 23, 2017 will go down in the annals of Angola as the day on which freedom of the press died. This was the day Angola’s new media legislation was published – a basket of five individual laws introducing a regulating body and stringent controls on journalists, the internet, the press, radio and television broadcasting. The new media laws have been rushed into being six months ahead of crucial presidential and parliamentary elections this year and it is feared their purpose is to ensure that the only information allowed to reach the Angolan public, toes the ruling-MPLA’s party line. In a page straight out of the German Nazi propaganda playbook dreamt up by Carl Schmitt, the new rules and regulations are so general and ambiguous that their interpretation depends on case-by-case ruling by the minister, a judge or similar. Freedom of the Press henceforth will depend on the individual whim […]

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Africa: Stereotypes and Western Media Brownie Points

On Saturday, Angolans were expecting an official announcement from the ruling MPLA party (which has held power for 41 years) that President José Eduardo dos Santos would not be running in the 2017 elections. Word had already been leaked to the international media who duly reported this development to the world at large – and yet inside Angola there was still no official confirmation. Not a word from the ruling party, the President or the state-controlled media. The Angola story was paired with that of the Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, who formally conceded defeat in the presidential elections after 22 years in power. It was heralded as a strand of an emerging trend: one ailing African dictator, Dos Santos, peacefully deciding to leave office (after holding power for 37 year) while another, Jammeh, graciously accepted he has lost a democratic election. Subsequent events suggest the mainstream international media were far […]

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Shoot the Messenger!

“Be careful! Be VERY careful!” That was the late-night advice to award-winning Angolan journalist and human rights defender Rafael Marques de Morais from Vice-Admiral Pedro Chicaia, the Cabindan brought to Luanda as the right-hand man and special adviser to the Angolan Navy Commander, Admiral Francisco José. It was an unusual time to call – a Sunday evening at 9.27pm – and an unusual response to enquiries into allegations of the illegal expropriation of land in the municipality of Viana. As Maka Angola revealed in a special report this week, the disputed land is a 15-hectare plot in Mucula Ngola, Viana province, registered in the name of Garcia João Camangumba who gave his sister, Helena João Teka power of attorney to manage his affairs when he became ill in 2012. Soon afterwards Helena’s home was demolished at night, killing her two young children, during what is alleged to have been one […]

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Angola’s Latest Ploy to Silence Critics: A Regulatory Body to Censor Social Media

Angola’s governing MPLA party (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) is gearing up for a tough battle to retain its 40-year grip on power in the face of a rising tide of discontent, swelled by the biting economic consequences of low oil prices and poor governance. Its response is to tighten control by restricting civil liberties – and in particular freedom of information. Ahead of this month’s ruling party congress, the National Assembly has passed a set of four bills which, in effect, hand control (and censorship) of all mass media outlets, including social media and the internet, to a new MPLA-controlled supervisory body: the ‘Entidade Reguladora da Comunicação Social Angolana’ (ERCA) – the Angolan Social Communications Regulatory Body. The aim, says Maka Angola’s award-winning editor, Rafael Marques de Morais, is to “control and censor any attempt by political activists to use social media and the Internet to blow […]

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From Being Bullied to a Dictator’s Nightmare

Writing has been my life’s passion and my curse too.  In my teens, I was bullied for being an avid reader and for wanting to express my opinions as informed by my readings. I vividly remember being taunted with the idea that “too much reading will bring you madness, and disgrace.” I had to endure periodic assaults. Each time I returned home crying, sobbing or bruised my mother would offer me two choices only. First, she would advise me to play by myself in the safety of our home. Second, she would warn me that if I went out to play with the bullies, I better return home quiet with no complaints or I would have to face her punishment for not knowing how to defend myself, and insisting on putting myself in harm’s way. As I grew, I set up a makeshift gym, with weights made out of tin […]

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The War on Social Media and the Trial of Activists

Following the president’s outline of his war on social media, Judge Januário Domingos is making history by being the first to hear a case of a political joke on Facebook that has displeased the regime. Yesterday, the judge of the Luanda Provincial Court questioned a Catholic priest, Father Jacinto Pio Wakussanga, for being part of an imaginary government, generated in a playful Facebook discussion, as the head of the National Electoral Commission. In court, the priest told the judge that he had heard through social media about this imaginary government and thought it was just a joke. Last May, a lawyer Albano Pedro set up an open online forum on his Facebook page to entice discussants to come up with names for what would be an ideal government of national salvation. The leader of the millennial religious sect “The Light of the Day”, José Julino Kalupeteka, who has been in […]

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President Dos Santos Wants Dictatorial Control of the Net

Angola’s President for the past 36 years, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, has used his traditional end of year speech to announce legal measures to control social media and the internet, which he feels have been offending and humiliating him. Announcing his main projects for the New Year, the President ignored the famine currently affecting residents in the southern province of Cunene along with the many other challenges faced by the Angolan people.  Instead, he is prioritizing further ways to silence the growing criticism of his increasingly-dictatorial regime. This is equally the case with Angola’s ‘Marie Antoinette’, Isabel dos Santos, the President’s billionaire daughter.  This Christmas she had a  “Let them Eat Cake” moment, choosing to spend US $2 million on bringing the Anaconda rapper Nicki Minaj to Luanda rather visiting Cunene in her role as president of the Angolan Red Cross to assist local communities severely affected by the drought. Social […]

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Radio Ecclesia: Ownership Between Bishops and Rulers

The Angolan Catholic-run Radio Ecclesia has been receiving financial support from the Ministry of Information, even though the government has not yet granted legal status to the radio station. The station was given back to the Catholic Church in 1997 after being banned 20 years earlier. Just last year, Radio Ecclesia simultaneously fired several journalists and cancelled programs without reviewing their ratings. The current management is facing increasing numbers of accusations of censorship. State sponsorship Maka Angola has had access to two documents corroborating a withdrawal order by the Ministry of Finance, to the value of five million kwanzas (US$50,000), for deposit in an account owned by the radio station, in the Banco de Fomento de Angola. The deposit is described as “funding for Radio Ecclesia from the Ministry of Information”. The managing director of Radio Ecclesia, father Quintino Kandanji, informed Maka Angola that he has only received sporadic support […]

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