The installation of a new president, João Lourenço, in September 2017 ended four decades of rule by the dos Santos family, but it did not mark a turning point for press freedom. Censorship and control of information still weigh heavily on Angolan journalists.
State-owned media dominate the Angolan media landscape. Only 20 or so of the 120 radio stations are privately owned and only two of them – Rádio Ecclesia, which is linked to the Catholic Church, and Rádio MFM – are regarded as independent. There are three state-owned TV channels and a few privately owned ones. The government took control of two of the latter, TV Zimbo and Palanca TV, in 2020. Of the many privately owned newspapers that emerged following the advent of multiparty politics in 1992, only four still exist in print form.
After an initial semblance of openness in 2017, President Lourenço limited his contact with the media and imposed a very restrictive format on his press conferences: five media outlets are invited and each is allowed just two questions, with no follow-up. Access to state-held information and government sources is very complicated, while censorship and self-censorship are still common. The ruling party is overrepresented in the media, especially on Angolan Public Television (TPA). Many media licence applications are stalled at the telecommunications ministry, which is accused of obstructing attempts by people or groups outside the government to create media outlets.
Under a series of laws passed in 2016, broadcast media outlets are required to air the president’s official statements. The decriminalisation of press offences, which journalists have been demanding, is still pending. There was, however, an encouraging sign in 2018 in the form of a court decision to acquit two investigative journalists of defamation on the grounds that they had exercised their “duty to report with complete objectivity.”
Many newspapers have been declared bankrupt in recent years after being taken over by persons linked to the ruling party, while others have had to close because of financial difficulties. The exorbitant costs of radio and TV licences are a brake on pluralism.
Christianity plays an influential role in Angolan society. Subjects related to religion, the Catholic Church or sexuality are either ignored or treated with caution. Women have a limited role within news organisations, while ethnic minorities are poorly represented in the media and in coverage of issues concerning them.
Investigative reporting on subjects involving governance and the judicial system still often lead to prosecutions and sometimes heavy sentences. In 2021, the director of the investigative journalism website A Denúncia was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 180,000 euros on charges of defamation and “abuse of press freedom” in connection with a story about a questionable land purchase by the deputy attorney general. Several journalists have been physically attacked or briefly arrested in recent years.