Human Rights Foundation (HRF) strongly condemns Angola’s obscure Statute of Journalists Bill and calls on the National Assembly to both make it public and reject it immediately. According to a public statement published last week by Maka Angola, a prestigious civil society organization led by award-winning journalist and civil rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais, the unpublished bill will “hand control (and censorship) of all … media outlets, including social media and the internet, to a new [government]-controlled supervisory body: the Angolan Social Communications Regulatory Body.”
“From Nigeria to Angola, authoritarian regimes are busy passing bills intended to upgrade free speech repression to cover new internet-based outlets of human expression,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “Natan Sharansky’s famous ‘town square test’ said: ‘if a person can walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a free society. If not, it’s a fear society.’ The town square is now equivalent to the internet cafe, the smartphone, or the personal computer in a person’s home, where activists access social media to express their opinions. President José Eduardo dos Santos and his henchmen want to maintain Angola as a fear society for another 36 years. This bill should be withdrawn immediately,” said Halvorssen.
The draft bill is reportedly under review by a specialized working committee of Angola’s legislative body, although it has not been made public. According to Maka Angola, the new regulatory body “will have wide jurisdictional powers, including determining who is eligible for professional accreditation as a journalist,” and will “censor any attempt by political activists to blow the whistle on the most egregious examples of corruption, nepotism and the abuse of power.” A final vote by the Dos Santos-controlled National Assembly is expected in the upcoming weeks. Dos Santos has been in power in Angola since 1979.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.