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A new draft media law has provoked protests from the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the Independent Union of Angolan Journalists (SJA), and MIACOOP (Associated Journalists). These groups organised several debates over the new draft law in the provinces of Bengo, Benguela, Huíla and Luanda during September. Numbers journalists, civil society stakeholders and representatives of political parties participated in the discussions.

In a submission to Angola’s Minister of Social Communication, MISA welcomed some articles of the draft law, but was strongly critical overall. MISA expressed concern that the law would have the effect of “criminalising the activities of media workers and expression in general”, and it criticised the “vague and unacceptable” provisions allowing authorities to declare virtually any information in their possession or emanating from them as “secret”. The lack of a clear means to define harm resulting from the publication or dissemination of information is, in MISA’s view, “calculated to instil fear in citizens, and further curb speech and the free flow of information, amidst the looming threat of criminal prosecution.” Among other concerns, the organisation is also troubled by provisions allowing the state to seize publications.

MISA notes that current conditions in Angola include “a de facto civil war, a high degree of poverty, destabilisation of communities and the destruction through war and conflict of communal centres and habitats.” Rather than seeing these conditions as excuses for limits on free expression, MISA “considers it crucial for freedom of expression to enjoy a high degree of protection in contexts such as these.” Its recommendations include promotion of pluralistic media by relinquishing government control over television broadcasting and a large part of radio broadcasting. MISA calls on the government to refrain from passing the law as it stands, consider its proposed amendments, and allow for greater input from Angolan civil society and media stakeholders in drafting a new law. [Updates IFEX “Communique” #9-37 and #9-30.]">">#9-37 and #9-30.]

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