Journalists Under Pressure in Run Up to Angolan Elections

With the approach of the upcoming August 31 elections in oil-rich Angola, the incumbent government is revealing a short tolerance for speculation among news media.

Currently on trial is the journalist, Ramiro Aleixo, who faces charges over articles he wrote five years ago.  Aleixo is alleged to have defamed the military justice system, specifically its Supreme Court and office of the military attorney.

In September 2007, the defendant wrote two articles in the now defunct weekly newspaper Kesongo about the trial and conviction of the former director of the Angolan Intelligence Services, General Fernando Garcia Miala, exposing the judicial process as a farce. Initially, it was publicly revealed that there was an investigation of General Miala for an attempted coup.

To the journalist’s surprise, and to the surprise of the Angolan public at large, the general ended up in court accused of insubordination for refusing to attend a public ceremony in which he was to be demoted from the rank of three-star general to lieutenant-general. He was sentenced to four years in jail, while three of his closest aides were sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail.

In his editorial ‘The dangerous track’, before expressing his opinion of the proceedings that led to the incarceration of the general and his aides, Mr. Aleixo rejoiced over the role of the privately-owned media’s coverage of the case. According to Mr. Aleixo, the Miala case “showed the country, and the world, the importance of private media in the country’s democratization process.”

He further stated: “In all journalistic coverage of the case, no private media outlet favoured Miala or his aides. Only facts and opinions of legal experts were expressed and even most of these were off the record, given the fear inspired by the regime.”

Without quibbling, Mr. Aleixo expressed his opinion about the case against the high-ranking officers of the Angolan Intelligence Services. According to him, “the Miala case was a mock trial because the interests of power ruled over those of justice.” He further added that, because it was impossible to prove a supposed attempted coup, “the President of the Republic José Eduardo dos Santos transferred to the military jurisdiction the responsibility of punishing his former ‘loyalist’.”

According to Angola Press, journalists are being urged to master the basis of the Law on General Elections so as to provide a public service that highlights the electoral process and its direct and indirect skateholders.

This was said on Wednesday in Luanda by the Media Vice-minister, Manuel Miguel de Carvalho “Wadijimbi”, while addressing the opening act of the International Seminar on the Electoral Press coverage, in representation of minister Carolina Cerqueira.

The official said that the citizen’s satisfaction, through responsible information based on the compliance with laws, pluralism, freedoms, professional ethics and decorum, is the best that journalist can express toward to elections.

He said that in this electoral process, the journalists have big responsibilities in the dissemination of events that contribute to the collective success of Angolans.

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