“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one”, J Liebling
The Republic of Angola has introduced a new Press Law, a tool desired by Angolan journalists for many years and one that heralds the end of the State media monopoly, particularly in television broadcasting.
The new law is a consequence of proposals presented by the Angolan Sport Journalists Association (AIDA), Syndicate of Journalists (SJA), a technical commission nominated by the Ministry for Media, and the Angolan Institute for Communications (INACOM). The statute was submitted for public discussion before it was brought before the Parliament. The document was then fine-tuned and enriched, mainly focussing on the television system matters.
According to Manuel Rabelais, Angola’s Mass Media Minister, journalists and also President of the Congress of AIDA, “The new statute secures the freedom of the press, forbids censorship, guarantees access to sources, and ensures pluralism, impartiality and objectivity”.
The law consists of eight chapters and 90 articles and is the result of the authors’ endeavours and constant concern to achieve political consensus. Issues such as public service, content, and local languages which play an important role in maintaining the national identity were focussed on in the new bill which guarantees a foreign ownership share of up to 30 % of the media. Aiming for impartiality, licenses will be assigned by public tender. The law assures “a modern regime: transparent and objective”.
The Bill also sets mechanisms for the self-regulation of journalists through a Statute and Code of Ethics. The “Lei de Imprensa” places the Code of Ethics in the hands of the General Assembly of Journalists. Professional cards will be issued by a Special Commission framed on the National Council for the Media. Regarding responsibility, the most polemic point of the law, jail sentences have been replaced by pecuniary penalties.