Internet freedom in Angola has improved under the administration of President João Lourenço, who has presented transparency and the fight against corruption as priorities of his administration. Self-censorship continues to decline, in large part because there is greater confidence that the government will not arrest users for online expression. People are also more able to use social media for activism and community building than in the past. However, a set of media laws that came into force in 2017, known as the Social Communication Legislative Package, includes provisions that could be invoked to restrict speech. Though so far they do not appear to have been abused, they pose an ongoing threat to free expression. An ongoing economic crisis has affected the viability of some online outlets. The government’s perceived ability to monitor and intercept the data and communications of Angolan citizens is a major concern.
Angola has been ruled by the same party since independence, and authorities have systematically repressed political dissent. Corruption, due process violations, and abuses by security forces all remain common. Since Lourenço’s election in 2017, the government has taken steps to crack down on endemic corruption and has eased restrictions on the press and civil society. Nevertheless, serious governance and human rights challenges persist. Lourenço succeeded President José Eduardo dos Santos, who had been in power for 38 years.
June 1, 2018 – May 31, 2019
The main information and communications technology (ICT) regulator in early 2019 fined ZAP, an internet service provider (ISP) for increasing its prices in a manner inconsistent with state regulations (see A2 and A5).
The government retains some level of control over the ICT sector through the direct and indirect shareholder participation of government-controlled entities such as the national oil company. Politically exposed people also remain among the largest shareholders of the country´s two major telecom companies (see A4).
A new penal code approved in January 2019 effectively decriminalized same-sex relations, enabled freer online discussion of issues affecting LGBT+ people (see B7).
The new penal code also outlined a number of crimes pertaining specifically to media, which carry fines and jail sentences. These include “abuse of press freedom,” defamation crimes, publication of fake news, and spreading information obtained fraudulently. The criminalization of press crimes is contrary to the president’s calls for a more open society (see C1).
In July 2018, prominent journalist Rafael Marques de Morais was acquitted of defamation charges, in what was seen as a major victory for free expression (see C3).
A Obstacles to Access
Internet and mobile phone penetration both remain low, hindered largely by high costs and poor infrastructure that limit access—particularly in rural areas. Free Wi-Fi hotspots have made some headway in improving connectivity. Politically exposed people and government-controlled entities, such as the national oil company, Sonangol, have direct and indirect stakes in Angola´s main ICT companies, exposing these companies to political influence. The ruling party maintains effective control of Angola’s nominally independent regulatory bodies.
|Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections?||26|
Access to the internet in Angola remains very low, but has been growing steadily. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), more than 5.9 million users accessed the internet in 2018,1 amounting to over 19 percent of the population. There were about 13.39 million mobile phone users in 2018, about 45 percent of the population. 3G and 4G coverage and penetration reach 85 percent and 13.8 percent of the population, respectively.2 The relatively small gap between internet use rates and mobile internet penetraion rates suggest that most users access the internet on mobile devices.
Poor infrastructure significantly hampers ICT access. However, the situation is improving somewhat, with the country’s fractured electricity system now serving 72.7 percent of the urban population,3 but still only 8 percent of the rural population,4 according to the latest World Bank data. Power outages remain frequent. Internet speeds are limited by the ADSL technology most fixed broadband connections are based on.5
The South Atlantic Cable System (SACS), a submarine fiber-optic cable connecting Brazil and Angola that aims to reduce the bandwidth costs associated with the distance that internet traffic has to travel from Europe and the United States, was completed in May 2018.6
- 1. Mário Oliveira, Secretary of State for Telecommunications, March 2019 in Luanda, conference presentation
- 2. The Mobile Connectivity Index, https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/resources/mobile-connectivity…
- 3. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.ELC.ACCS.UR.ZS?locations=AO
- 4. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/606291556800753914/pdf/Creati… .
- 5. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/606291556800753914/Creating-M…
- 6. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/606291556800753914/pdf/Creati…
|Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons?||13|
Access to the internet is too expensive for many people, especially in rural areas. However, the government and some private companies have made efforts to establish free wireless hotspots.
Angola Online, a government-promoted project, has established a number of hotspots throughout the country that have expanded the availability of free internet access.1 According to Miguel Cazevo, head of the newly-created National Institute for Promotion of the Information Society, free hotspots have been established at locations in 13 of the country´s 18 provinces.2 In the capital, Luanda, and in some other cities, free hotspots sponsored by local beverage and banking companies3 have become increasingly available in public spaces such as airports, shopping centers, and major universities.4
Poor infrastructure particularly affects those in rural areas, where voice and data services are of much poorer quality, and are subject to frequent cuts and extremely slow connection speeds. Due to the country’s fractured electricity system, urban areas are more likely to have connectivity (see A1).
High costs remain the main hindrance to increasing ICT access for the majority of Angolans. A lack of competition in the ICT industry contributes to the high cost of services (see A4).5 President João Lourenço has expressed concern about the cost and quality of internet services.6 Under his administration, INACOM in early 2019 fined ZAP for increasing its prices in a way inconsistent with state regulations.7
The recent economic downturn reportedly contributed to a decline in mobile phone penetration and has made internet access less affordable. 8 Angola saw a nearly nine percent increase in unemployment between 2017 and 2019, when it reached 28.8 per cent of the working age population.9 According to World Bank data, GNI per capita has decreased from $5,010 in 2014 to $3,370 in 2018.10
Monthly internet subscriptions from leading ISPs including ZAP range from $46 (2 Mbps) to $275 (50 Mbps),11 while gross national income (GNI) per capita was estimated at $3,370 per year, or $280.83 per month,12 in 2018. In contrast, USB dongle devices that provide wireless access cost between $50 and $60. Consequently, few Angolan households have internet access at home. The cost of internet on mobile networks is estimated at $1.60 for 100MB.13 Mobile internet packages come at a monthly cost of about $45, while internet cafes charge approximately $1 for 30 minutes.
Prices for mobile data, call plans, and broadband internet in Angola are high compared to neighboring countries—10 times higher than South Africa’s, for example. Lower-cost packages, such as those offered by Movicel and NetOne, are associated with poor speeds and overall service quality.14
According to the EIU´s The Inclusive Internet Index 2019, Angola ranks 10th out of 31 African nations in the “Relevance” category, which is concerned with local language and relevant content.15
- 1. “Sistema de Internet grátis chega ao Bengo” (“Free Internet system arrives in Bengo”), Menos Fios, 3 January, 2019 https://www.menosfios.com/sistema-de-internet-gratis-chega-ao-bengo/
- 2. “Cidadãos têm disponível Internet de acesso grátis”, Jornal de Angola, 29 November, 2018
- 3. Research conducted by analyst.
- 4. https://www.wiman.me/angola
- 5. "Country Private Sector Diagnostics: Creating Markets in Angola", World Bank, January 2019, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/606291556800753914/Creating-M…
- 6. “Presidente angolano quer baixar custos e melhorar fiabilidade nas telecomunicações” (Angolan president wants to lower cost and improve reliability of telecomunications”), Observador, June 19, 2018 https://observador.pt/2018/06/19/presidente-angolano-quer-baixar-custos…
- 7. http://jornaldeangola.sapo.ao/economia/zap-resiste-as-pressoes-exercida…
- 8. "Country Private Sector Diagnostics: Creating Markets in Angola", World Bank, January 2019, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/606291556800753914/Creating-M…
- 9. "Taxa de desemprego em Angola cresce 8,8% para 28,8% nos últimos dois anos" ("Unemployment rate in Angola grows 8.8% to 28.8% in the last two years"), Observador, April 20, 2019 https://observador.pt/2019/04/20/taxa-de-desemprego-em-angola-cresce-88…
- 10. https://data.worldbank.org/country/angola
- 11. “Saiba Quais São os Novos Preços da Zap Fibra” (“Lean About Zap Fibra´s New Prices”), Menos Fios, 28 March 2019 https://www.menosfios.com/saiba-quais-sao-os-novos-precos-da-zap-fibra/
- 12. “GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)” World Bank, accessed April 2 2019 https://data.worldbank.org/country/angola
- 13. “Angola is looking for the ideal formula to lower the cost of the Internet”, Menos Fios, 27 October, 2019
- 14. "Country Private Sector Diagnostics: Creating Markets in Angola", World Bank, January 2019, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/606291556800753914/Creating-M…
- 15. The Inclusive Internet Index 2019, EIU, accessed April 8 2019 https://theinclusiveinternet.eiu.com/explore/countries/AO/performance/i…
|Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity?||56|
There were no restrictions on connectivity to internet or mobile phone networks reported during the coverage period—though the Angolan government’s indirect control of telecommunications infrastructure via state-owned Angola Telecom may enable the government to partially control internet connectivity if desired.1
Angola’s domestic backbone is currently comprised of microwave, VSAT (very small aperture terminal), and fiber-optic cables. Connection to the international internet goes through the West Africa Cable System (WACS), which is owned by Angola Cables, and the South Atlantic 3 (SAT-3) cable, which is operated by Angola Telecom, Main One cable, and WASACE. Angola Cables also manages the country’s internet exchange point (IXP), ANGONIX,2 which grew to become the third largest IXP in Africa in 2017.3 Angola Cables, which is also responsible for the SACS (see A1), is a consortium of the country’s telecom operates, with primary control belonging to Angola Telecom (51 percent) and Unitel (31 percent).
12,000 (7,450 miles) of the 22,000 km of the fiber-optic cables in Angola belong to state-owned Angola Telecom.4
- 1. "Sistema de Cabos da África Ocidental entra na fase final" [Cable system in Western Africa in final phase], Portalangop, October 27, 2012, http://www.angop.ao/angola/pt_pt/noticias/ciencia-e-tecnologia/2011/9/4…
- 2. “Measuring the Information Society Report 2017, Volume 2, ICT Country Profiles: Angola,” International Telecommunication Union (ITU), accessed September 25, 2018, https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/publications/misr2017…
- 3. Darwin Costa, “Angola is emerging as a growing tech hub on the continent,” BizCommunity, August 22, 2017, http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/7/16/166368.html
- 4. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/606291556800753914/Creating-M…
|Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers?||36|
The state and the political-military elite still dominate the main service providers, in spite of government plans to reduce the state’s presence in the tech sector. Politicians, government allies, and the state-owned oil company, Sonangol, can exert some control on the ICT sector through direct and indirect ownership of shares in internet and mobile service providers (ISPs).
Sonangol holds 3 of the country’s 18 ISPs—MSTelcom, Nexus, and ACS—is a major shareholder in Angola Cables, and has 25 percent of Unitel,1 the country’s largest ISP.2 The previous Sonangol chief executive, Carlos Saturnino, announced the company’s intention to sell its stake in Unitel by the end of 2019.3 The national telecom company, Angola Telecom, is a major shareholder in Angola Cables with 51 percent, and provides its own internet services.4
In November 2017, the government announced plans to privatize a 45 percent stake of Angola Telecom’s fixed-network services.5 After the coverage period of this report, in August 2019, a plan for privatizing numerous state holdings, including telecoms, was laid out. MS Telecom, Net One, Unitel, TV Cabo Angola, and Multitel are to be privatized in 2020. Angola Telecom and Angola Cables will be privatized in 2021.6
Alongside Angola Telecom, two private operators, Unitel and Movicel, provide mobile phone services, and both have indirect ownership ties to politically exposed people. State-owned Sonangol owns 25 percent of Unitel, the larger mobile phone operator,7 while Isabel dos Santos, former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ daughter, maintains a 25 percent stake—the same as Geni, an entity reportedly owned by General Leopoldino do Nascimento, a loyalist of the former president.8 Unitel is the dominant player, with a share of 73 percent of the market. Movicel retains 27 percent parket share. 9
Five ostensibly private Angolan companies split ownership of 80 percent of Movicel,10 though these companies reportedly have majority shareholders who are senior officials within the former president’s office. Movicel’s remaining capital is held by two state enterprises, Angola Telecom and Empresa Nacional de Correios e Telégrafos de Angola.11 Isabel dos Santos’s half-sister, Welwitschia dos Santos, reportedly holds an indirect stake in Movicel.12
A bidding process for licensing a fourth telecom operator was reopened in spring 2019.13
The 2017 Law on Electronic Communications further enhances the government’s ability to control the country’s ICT sector.14 On paper, the law aims to ensure that ICTs in Angola are developed to play a fundamental role in ensuring citizens’ universal access to information, transparency in the public sector, and participatory democracy. It also sets broader goals of poverty alleviation, competitiveness, productivity, employment, and consumer rights.15 However, it also contains a broadly worded clause allowing the head of government to “intervene” if ISPs jeopardize “social functions” or “gravely compromise the rights of subscribers or users.”16 Analysts have interpreted this clause as potentially allowing the president to exercise control over the whole sector.
- 1. https://macauhub.com.mo/2018/11/16/pt-sociedade-nacional-de-combustivei…
- 2. “Sonangol’s telecom subsidiary, MSTelcom, discloses its full ownership of Nexus and ACS,” in: Sonangol Notícias, “9º Aniversário da Mstelcom: Ligando o País e o Mundo,” August 2008, nº 17, Sonangol.
- 3. “Sonangol de saída da Unitel até final de 2019” (“Sonangol to leave Unitel until end of 2019”), Jornal Economico, 15 November, 2019 https://jornaleconomico.sapo.pt/noticias/sonangol-de-saida-da-unitel-at…
- 4. “Angola – Telecommunications/Electric,” Export, June 20, 2017, https://www.export.gov/apex/article2?id=Angola-telecommunications.
- 5. “Parcela de 45% da Angola Telecom a privatizar vale 500 milhões USD” (“45% Stake of Angola Telecom to be Privatized worth 500 million USD), Mercado 16 April, 2019, https://mercado.co.ao/negocios/parcela-de-45-da-angola-telecom-a-privat…
- 6. Diário da República Iª Série n.º 101 de 5 de Agosto de 2019. Page 14.
- 7. ”Statistics 2017: General Data,”Instituto Angolana dos Comunicoçoes, accessed October 15, 2018, http://www.inacom.gov.ao/Mercado/Estatísticas/Estatística-2017-1/Dados-…
- 8. Angola: Legal Jeopardy for the Angolan 'Princess', MakaAngola, 28 August, 2018, https://www.makaangola.org/2018/08/legal-jeopardy-for-the-angolan-princ…
- 9. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/606291556800753914/pdf/Creati…
- 10. Portmill Investimentos e Telecomunicações with 40 percent, Modus Comunicare with 19 percent, Ipang-Indústria de Papel e Derivados with 10 percent, Lambda with 6 percent, and Novatel with 5 percent. See: Rafael Marques de Morais, “The Angolan Presidency: The Epicentre of Corruption,” Maka Angola, accessed October 15, 2018, https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/attach/169/169476_Ao100805.pdf
- 11. With 18 percent and 2 percent, respectively. See: Rafael Marques de Morais, “The Angolan Presidency: The Epicentre of Corruption.”
- 12. ”Angola: ‘fourth operator’ to be licensed; Angola Telecom to be part-privatised,” TeleGeography, November 29, 2017, https://www.telegeography.com/products/commsupdate/articles/2017/11/29/….
- 13. “Angola abre novo concurso para quarto operador de telecomunicações” (“Angola Opens New Bid for Fourth Telecom”), Expresso, 26 April, 2019 https://expresso.pt/economia/2019-04-26-Angola-abre-novo-concurso-para-…
- 14. Assembleia Nacional, Lei das Comunicações Electrónicas e dos Serviços da Sociedade da Informação (Lei nº 23/11), art. 5.
- 15. Ministério Das Telecomunicaçoes e Tecnologias de Informação, “The commitment of Angola in Communications and IT sector according to the Recommendations of the World Summit on the Information Society,” (presentation, Geneva, Switzerland, June 2013), https://unctad.org/meetings/en/Presentation/CSTD_2013_Ministerial_WSIS_….
- 16. Assembleia Nacional, Lei das Comunicações Electrónicas e dos Serviços da Sociedade da Informação (Lei nº 23/11), art. 26, 2.
|Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner?||14|
Angola’s powerful ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) maintains effective control of regulatory bodies.
The Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology is responsible for oversight of the ICT sector, while the Angolan Institute for Communications (INACOM), established in 1999, serves as the sector’s regulatory body. INACOM determines the sector’s regulations and policies, sets prices for telecommunications services, and issues licenses. The regulatory body is, on paper, an independent public institution with both financial and administrative autonomy from the ministry. In practice, its autonomy is fairly limited.1 Its director general is appointed by the government and can be dismissed for any reason.2 In addition, the Telecommunications Ministry can influence staff appointments. Other ministries are often involve themselves in sector policy, leading to politically influenced regulatory decisions.
Under the new administration of President Lourenço, INACOM has exercised its regulatory powers more assertively, chiefly in containing consumer-price increases by telecom operators.3
- 1. Russell Southwood, “The Case for ‘Open Access’ Communications Infrastructure in Africa: The SAT-3/WASC cable – Angola case study,” Association for Progressive Communications, accessed August 30, 2013, https://www.apc.org/sites/default/files/APC_SAT3Angola_20080523.pdf.
- 2. “Angola Profile (latest data available: 2017),” International Telecommunication Union, accessed September 25, 2018, https://www.itu.int/net4/itu-d/icteye/CountryProfile.aspx.
- 3. "ZAP Resiste às Pressões Exercidas pelo INACOM" ("Zap Resists Pressures by INACOM"), http://jornaldeangola.sapo.ao/economia/zap-resiste-as-pressoes-exercida…
B Limits on Content
Online content remained unrestricted during the coverage period. With President Lourenço presenting transparency and the fight against corruption as causes of his administration, online journalists have begun to more actively highlight cases of corruption, abuse of power, land grabs, police brutality, and demolitions. However, both state agencies and private-sector actors often deny advertising revenue to media outfits that criticize the political-military elite. Separately, a severe economic crisis has also led to financial constraints at numerous outlets.
|Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content?||66|
Despite a history of censorship in print and broadcast media, there have been no known incidents of the government blocking or filtering online content in Angola, and there are no restrictions on the type of information that can be exchanged through digital media technologies. A set of new media laws that took effect in 2017 have been criticized as restrictive, but no websites to date have been censored under their provisions (see C1). Social media and communications apps such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and international blog-hosting services are freely available.
|Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content?||44|
There were no reports of forced content removal during the coverage period, though informal government demands on users to remove content from the internet have been documented periodically. In the last known case, a Facebook user arrested in April 2015 for a critical post about a military general was forced to remove the post and apologize in exchange for his release.1
- 1. Interview by Freedom House consultant in May 2015.
|Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process?||44|
While some Angolan laws applicable to the digital sphere contain harsh restrictions, in practice these have not been enforced on websites or users.
In January 2017, the government followed through with the implementation of a set of new media laws known as the Social Communication Legislative Package. The package created a regulatory body with powers to ban websites (see C1). Article 10 of the new Press Law states that “all social communication media” have the responsibility to inform citizens “in accordance with the public interest.” Also of a broad scope is article 7, which sets as limits to the exercise of freedom of the press constitutional and legal provisions “to safeguard the objectivity, rigor and independence of information,” to “protect the right to good name, honor and reputation…the State Secret, the Secret of Justice, the Professional Secret and other guarantees of those rights, under the terms regulated by law,” as well as to “defend the public interest and democratic order” and protect “health and public morality.”1 Critics say these effectively enable the government to control and censor critical information posted on social media or elsewhere online.
- 1. "Pacote Legislativo da Comunicação Social" ("Social Communication Legislative Package") http://www.governo.gov.ao/VerLegislacao.aspx?id=1192
|Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship?||34|
In the past, self-censorship has been pervasive and commonly practiced by journalists at both state-run and private print outlets, though bloggers and social media users were less reluctant to express criticism of the president and ruling party. With President João Lourenço presenting transparency and the fight against corruption as causes of his administration, journalists and newsrooms, including public outlets, have begun to more actively highlight cases of corruption, abuse of power, land grabs, police brutality, and demolitions.
|Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest?||34|
Government efforts to manipulate online content are still sporadically reported. Some independent online news outlets report receiving regular calls from government officials directing them to tone down criticism, or refrain from reporting on certain issues.1
Members of the ruling MPLA own and tightly control a majority of the country’s media outlets, including those that are the most widely disseminated and accessed. Of the main dozen or so privately owned newspapers, most are held by individuals connected to the government. Infighting between supporters of president Lourenço and former president José Eduardo dos Santos has spilled over to online media, with most outlets becoming critical of the previous administration. Some analysts suspect that increasingly critical coverage of dos Santos has come as a result of pressure put on outlets since his departure.
Bots on social media have become more prevalent and influential in recent years. A study by the political consultancy firm Portland Communications found that during the August 2017 elections period, potential bots represented 9 percent of social media “influencers,” and that 94 percent of the bots were based outside of Angola, including in South Africa and the United States. The study found bots second to journalists and media organizations in overall social media influence during the election.2
- 1. In 2015, editors at Rede Angola, reportedly received instructions from the authorities not to publish any news about an ongoing defamation case against journalist and blogger Rafael Marques de Morais. (Source: Based on interviews with anonymous online journalists and editors.)
- 2. “How Africa Tweets 2018,” Portland Communications, accessed September 25, 2018, https://portland-communications.com/publications/how-africa-tweets-2018/.
|Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online?||23|
Both state agencies and private-sector actors often deny advertising revenue to media outfits that criticize the political-military elite.
Separately, a severe economic crisis has led to financial constraints at numerous outlets, and reports of wage arrears and layoffs are frequent. Recent reports indicated that individuals at some smaller, cash-strapped newspapers have accepted bribes to write critical, poorly substantiated stories about government personalities, including the president.1
|Does the online information landscape lack diversity?||34|
As a result of low rates of ICT access, radio, television, and print outlets remain the primary sources of information for the majority of Angolans. Both online and traditional media suffer from some degree of government interference, especially those with ties to the MPLA, which limit the diversity of viewpoints (see B5).
Nevertheless, news outlets are increasingly willing to scrutinize the political-military elite and report critically on government and power in general. The main sources of alternative and independent online news in Angola include Club-K and Maka Angola. Also widely read are outlets funded by foreign governments, such as Lusa (Portugal), VOA (United States), RFI (France) and DW Africa (Germany). The effective decriminalization of same-sex relations in January 2019 has enabled freer online discussion of issues affecting LGBT+ people.
While the online information landscape represents a increasing variety of groups and viewpoints across the country, the concentration of internet access in urban areas hampers regional and ethnic representation.
|Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues?||56|
While occasional arrests of protesters and online activists have muted digital activism and mobilization in the past, use of social media to mobilize support for various causes has become more common in recent years. Mobilization platforms are freely available to users, and citizens criticize the government and react to alleged wrongdoings within Angola’s lively social media sector. Youth groups in particular have increasingly flocked to Facebook to call out government corruption, reflecting a gradual weakening of the culture of fear within civil society.1
- 1. Central Angola 7311, website: http://centralangola7311.net/; Central Angola 7311, Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/1VGCP7Y.
- 2. “Angola makes history in favour of LGBTQI rights”, Ifex, February 6, 2019 https://ifex.org/africa/2019/02/06/angola-hope-lgbtqi/
- 3. Angola legaliza associação LGBT (“Angola legalizes LGBT group”), Diario de Noticias, 26 June, 2018, https://www.dn.pt/mundo/interior/angola-legaliza-associacao-lgbt-951432…
- 4. https://www.facebook.com/associacaoiris/
C Violations of User Rights
Prominent journalist and blogger Rafael Marques de Morais was acquitted of insult crimes in July 2018 in a victory for press freedom. However, new press laws include penalties for media crimes, including hate speech and the intentional publication of false news. The government’s ability to monitor and intercept the data and communications of Angolan citizens without adequate oversight is a major concern, particularly among human rights activists and journalists, though the full extent of the government’s surveillance capabilities and practices is unknown.
|Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence?||26|
The Angolan constitution provides for freedom of expression and the press, and the 2011 Law on Electronic Communications and Information Company Services provides for citizens’ rights to privacy and security online, among other provisions regulating telecommunications.
Nevertheless, Angolan laws also include problematic language that may infringe on internet freedom (see C2).1 In January 2017, former President José Eduardo Dos Santos enacted a set of new media laws known as the Social Communication Legislative Package, which included a new Press Law, Television Law, Broadcast Law, Journalists Code of Conduct, and statutes to establish the Angolan Regulatory Body for Social Communication (ERCA). The latter body was created to regulate journalists’ conduct and investigate producers of online content without judicial oversight, and has the power to suspend or ban websites that fail to abide by its standards of “good journalism.”2
The inaugural members of ERCA’s Governing Board , composed of 11 members, were appointed in July 2017—5 appointed by the majority party in parliament; 3 by the opposition; 1 by the government; and 2 by stakeholders in the sector.3 The ECRA has since been plagued by controversy and infighting.4 Among its first mandates was to establish a commission for the accreditation of journalists, but no substantial progress has been made to that end.5
Meanwhile, the judiciary is subject to considerable influence from the ruling political-military elite, with Supreme Court justices appointed to life terms by the president and without legislative approval.
- 1. Art. 71, 2, Assembleia Nacional, Lei de Imprensa (Lei 7/06), 2006, art. 26º, 2.
- 2. D Quaresma Dos Santos, “Angola passes laws to crack down on press and social media,” The Guardian, August 19, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/19/angola-passes-laws-to-cra…; D. Quaresma dos Santos, “Constitutional Challenge to Angola’s New Media Laws,” Maka Angola, March 8, 2017, https://www.makaangola.org/2017/03/constitutional-challenge-to-angolas-…; Rui Verde, “The Death Knell for Freedom of the Press in Angola,” Maka Angola, February 8, 2017, https://www.makaangola.org/2017/02/the-death-knell-for-freedom-of-of-th….
- 3. “Angola: ERCA members’ inauguration tops Parliament plenary,” ANGOP, August 14, 2017, http://www.angop.ao/angola/en_us/noticias/politica/2017/7/33/Angola-ERC….
- 4. Representantes do MPLA na ERCA votam contra a presença de conselheiro «internauta» (“MPLA Representatives in ERCA Vote Against Counsellor´s Presence”) ”), Jornal de Angola, August 30, 2018, https://www.novafrica.co.ao/mais/dossier/comunicacao-social/representan…
- 5. Reguladora da Comunicação Social angolana com dificuldades de instalação - presidente (“Difficulties in Installing Media Regulator“) https://www.dn.pt/lusa/interior/reguladora-da-comunicacao-social-angola…
|Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities?||14|
Stringent laws regarding state security and defamation run counter to constitutional guarantees. Article 26 of the 2010 State Security Law penalizes individuals who insult the country or president in “public meetings or by disseminating words, images, writings, or sound” with prison sentences of up to three years.1 The 2006 Press Law holds authors, editors, or directors of a publication criminally liable for defamatory content.2 If the author does not reside in the country or the text is not signed, the law establishes the circumstances in which the editor, director, or both may be held criminally responsible for such content.3 Article 82 of the Press Law criminalizes publication of a text or image that is “offensive to individuals,” which would be punished under the penal code as defamation and slander.4
A new penal code approved in January 2019 contains articles pertaining specifically to crimes committed in the media. These include fines and up to six months’ imprisonment for “abuse of press freedom,” a charge that can be drawn by speech deemed as inciting crimes, disseminating hate speech, or defending fascist or racist ideologies. The measure also covers those who disseminate texts, images, or sounds obtained by fraudulent means, as well as those who intentionally publish fake news. Under the new code, those who insult someone through the media can be fined and sentenced to up to six months in prison, and defamation can draw fines and a prison sentence as long as one year.
Computer crimes are also included in the new code, which, for instance, punishes illegitimately accessing information systems. Article 444 stipulates that "if access is achieved by breach of security rules or if it has been carried out to a protected service, the penalty is from two to eight years' imprisonment".5 A special investigative police (SIC) unit for cyber criminality is reportedly being set up.
- 1. “Angola: Revise New Security Law, Free Prisoners in Cabinda,” Human Rights Watch, December 9, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/12/09/angola-revise-new-security-law-free…
- 2. Art. 71, 2, Assembleia Nacional, Lei de Imprensa (Lei 7/06), 2006, http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/text.jsp?file_id=179557.
- 3. Art. 71, 2, Assembleia Nacional, Lei de Imprensa (Lei 7/06), 2006.
- 4. “Angola: New Media Law Threatens Free Speech,” Human Rights Watch, November 30, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/11/30/angola-new-media-law-threatens-free…
- 5. “Angola "ensaia" regulação das redes sociais” (“Angola prepares regulation of social networks”) - Angop, May 30, 2019 http://m.portalangop.co.ao/angola/pt_pt/mobile/noticias/ciencia-e-tecno…
|Are individuals penalized for online activities?||46|
High-profile prosecutions of journalists and activists have taken place in the past. There were no major cases of prosecution for legitimate online activity during this report’s coverage period, though journalists still faced harassment by police.
In July 2018, prominent journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, who runs the critical news blog Maka Angola, and journalist Mariano Brás Lourenço were acquitted of insult crimes, in what was widely applauded as a victory for press freedom in Angola.1 In May 2017, Marques de Morais had been charged with insult over an October 2016 article that accused Angola’s attorney general of illegal business practices in his purchase of state-owned land,2 and which also suggested that then president Dos Santos had supported the attorney general’s actions. Bras Lourenço was also charged for having republished the article in the weekly print newspaper, O Crime.3
While the acquittal of both journalists has encouraged journalistic independence, substantial doubts remain about the integrity of the justice system, and people are still occasionally penalized for online activities. Hitler “Samussuku” Tshikonde, a member of the 15+2 group of youth activists tried and acquitted in 2016 for an alleged coup attempt, was detained in May 2019 after he posted a video on social networks in which he asserted that after having been targeted by dos Santos, the current President João Lourenço "was nothing." He further warned Lourenço against arresting his fellow activists.4 He was detained for 72 hours but ultimately freed.5
- 1. “Angola Journalists’ Acquittal a Victory for Free Speech,” WN, July 7, 2018, https://article.wn.com/view/2018/07/07/Angolan_Journalists_Acquittal_a_….
- 2. “In Angola, two journalists charged over report on corruption,” Committee to Protect Journalists, December 29, 2016, https://cpj.org/2016/12/in-angola-two-journalists-charged-over-report-o….
- 3. Christopher Torchia, “2 Angolan journalists charged with insulting the state,” Associated Press, June 21, 2017, https://www.apnews.com/5505e1ec86694e57aee1d1875ec0d2e8/2-Angolan-journ….
- 4. "Colocado em Liberdade Activista Angolano do Grupo dos 17 Acusado de Ultraje ao Presidente" (Angolan Activist Accused of Outrage Against President Set Free"), VOA, May 13, 2019, https://www.voaportugues.com/a/colocado-em-liberdade-activista-angolano…
- 5. https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/05/17/angola-abusive-arrest-activist
|Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption?||34|
There are no reports of substantial restrictions to encryption. SIM card registration is mandatory, however, and hampers the ability of mobile phone users to communicate anonymously. SIM cards must be registered directly with INACOM, the ICT regulator that operates under government oversight. The process requires an identity card or driving license and tax card for national citizens, or a passport with a valid visa for visitors.1
|Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy?||36|
The government’s ability to monitor and intercept the data and communications of Angolan citizens without adequate oversight is a major concern, particularly among human rights activists and journalists, though the full extent of the government’s surveillance capabilities and practices is unknown.
Investigative reporting during the dos Santos administration revealed its possession of sophisticated spyware and plans for its targeted use, as well as its use in practice against at least one journalist, in 2013.1 In June 2015, Wikileaks published leaked internal emails from the Italian surveillance equipment company Hacking Team, which revealed efforts by Angola’s intelligence agency, SINSE, to acquire Hacking Team’s notorious Remote Control System (RCS) in 2013.2 Sold to numerous repressive regimes around the world, RCS spyware has the ability to steal files and passwords and intercept Skype communications, among other features. The documents did not reveal whether the Angolan government eventually purchased or installed the spyware.
More recent investigations have revealed increased engagement with the Chinese government on surveillance methods.3 According to December 2017 research by the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law, there is strong suspicion that Chinese companies were providing support to the government’s signals intelligence program on mobile phones and the internet, which aimed to target human rights organizations and defenders and grassroots social movements.4 Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE have been active in Angola since the 1990s;5 ZTE is reportedly involved with Angola’s military telecommunications.6
- 1. Janet Gunter, “Digital Surveillance in Angola and Other “Less Important” African Countries,” Global Voices Advocacy, February 26, 2014, http://bit.ly/1LjKxn4, See, Freedom on the Net 2015, “Angola” country report, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2015/angola.
- 2. Daniel Finnan, “Kenyan government asked Hacking Team to attack dissident website,” Radio France Internationale, July 17, 2015, http://en.rfi.fr/africa/20150717-kenyan-government-asked-hacking-team-a….
- 3. Freedom House consultant interviews, May 2016.
- 4. Arthur Gwagwa, “Digital Media: An emerging repression battlefront in Angola?” Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law, Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya, December 2017.
- 5. John Reed, “Africa’s Big Brother Lives in Beijing,” Foreign Policy, July 30, 2013, https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/07/30/africas-big-brother-lives-in-beiji…, Roselyn Hsueh and Michael Byron Nelsom, “Who Wins? China Wires Africa: The Cases of Angola and Nigeria,” NYU/Giessen Development Conference, New York University School of Law, New York, April 9, 2013, http://www.iilj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Hsueh-Who-wins-2003.pdf..
- 6. Roselyn Hsueh and Michael Byron Nelsom, “Who Wins? China Wires Africa: The Cases of Angola and Nigeria,” NYU/Giessen Development Conference, New York University School of Law, New York, April 9, 2013, http://www.iilj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Hsueh-Who-wins-2003.pdf.
|Are service providers and other technology companies required to aid the government in monitoring the communications of their users?||36|
Strong state influence in the ownership structure of Angola’s telecoms, particularly mobile phone operators, suggests that the authorities are likely able to require service providers to assist in the monitoring of communications.1 Such interweaving of political and business interests through family connections is compounded by the lack of rule of law.
The 2017 Law on Protection of Information Networks and Systems mandates that telecom operators store traffic and location data for “investigation, detection and repression of crimes.” According to article 37, interception of communication by security services requires prior approval by a magistrate.2 Article 22 mandates that service providers allow the prosecutor general or a magistrate access to data, including location, or systems storing information considered "evidence."3 Article 23rd mandates that operators store all data for at least a year.
Law 22/11 on Personal Data Protection has been in place since 2011, and provides the right for data subjects to “access, object to, rectify, update and delete their personal data.”4 Failure to comply with the law by data controllers based or operating in Angola can draw a fine of up to $150,000.
- 1. Based on FH interviews. For instance, the top adviser to the head of the Intelligence Bureau at the Presidency, General Leopoldino do Nascimento, is also the chairman and shareholder of Unitel. Meanwhile, the head of the Intelligence Bureau, General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa,” holds a majority share (about 59 percent) in Movicel. The deputy CEO and Chief Technology Officer of Unitel, Amílcar Safeca, is the brother of Aristides Safeca, the secretary of ICTs who in turn is a shareholder of Movicel.
- 2. Ministry of Telecom and IT Website http://www.mtti.gov.ao/verlegislacao.aspx?id=1200
- 3. https://www.infosi.gov.ao/fotos/frontend_1/editor2/Publicacoes/2017-lei…
- 4. “Angola Passes Personal Data Protection Law,” Privacy and Information Security Law Blog, September 19, 2011, https://www.huntonprivacyblog.com/2011/09/19/angola-passes-personal-dat….
|Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in retribution for their online activities?||45|
Online activists and journalists are sporadically targeted with threats, though they face less violence and harassment than journalists who operate mainly in the traditional media sphere. No incidents of severe violence for online activities were reported during this report’s coverage period.
|Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack?||23|
Independent and diaspora news websites have been taken down by technical attacks in the past, though there were no reported incidents during this report’s coverage period.
Previously, the critical news blog Maka Angola was a repeated target of DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks before receiving technical assistance from Jigsaw’s Project Shield, which protects websites from powerful technical attacks. (Jigsaw is a technology incubator associated with Google.)1 Rafael Marques de Morais, who runs Maka Angola, was also a frequent target of technical attacks,2 but he has received assistance from digital security nonprofits to safeguard his online activities.
- 1. Alfred Ng, “Google’s Project Shield defends free speech from botnet scourge,” CNET, September 29, 2016, https://www.cnet.com/news/google-project-shield-botnet-distributed-deni….
- 2. There is a detailed account of how the malware was discovered during an international conference. See: Michael Moynihan, “Hackers are Spying On You: Inside the World of Digital Espionage,” Newsweek, May 29, 2013, http://bit.ly/1s29LJY., Janet Gunter, “Digital Surveillance in Angola and Other ‘Less Important’ African Countries,” Global Voices Advox, February 26, 2014, https://advox.globalvoices.org/2014/02/26/digital-surveillance-in-angol….
Freedom in the World StatusNot Free
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