Radio for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights 
A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener
peace radio site
© Dr Hansjoerg Biener
0107, updated 0701
Comments and contributions are welcome. Material may be re-printed but a complimentary copy of the publication is expected.

general information on the radio system
Angola is a prime example for a country suffering from decades of colonial and post colonial wars. In the early sixties, several groups started independence wars against Portuguese rule. But it was only after the fall of the Salazar regime that the Portuguese left in 1975. Several guerilla groups supported by military forces from Cuba, Apartheid South Africa and Zaire fought for control of the mineral rich country. Finally, the Marxist MPLA was able to establish control over much of the country with Jonas Savimbi's UNITA continuing their case in the South. Angola became a synonym for landmines and children at war. More than 10 million landmines are scattered across the country, and experts consider Angola to be one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Some 40 per cent of the population is under the age of 15.
The battle was also fought in the air with UNITA operating its Vorgan clandestine station from installations in Apartheid South Africa and transmitters inside Angola.[1] Several peace accords were forged and broken during the years and Jonas Savimbi (+22 Feb 2002) remained a person of military power although he had lost the support of Apartheid South Africa and covert support from the West.

special programmes of Voice of America
It is said that sixty percent of Angolans speak Portuguese. So Angola is a natural target for international broadcasts in Portuguese. Beside the government and UNITA voices there has been little international or independent local broadcasting for Angola. One might mention the short wave broadcasts of Trans World Radio in Portuguese and Angolan languages, but these are focussing on evangelical religion. The Voice of America has broadcast special weekday programmes in Portuguese to Angola "Linha Directa, Linha Aberta" since March 1996. VoA Portuguese to Africa was created in 1976, shortly after Portugal had given independence to its five African colonies. The station currently uses the knowledge of some 30 stringers around the country as well as some scientific insight into conflict resolution. Despite a certain scepticism about a possible conflict of interest between journalistic standards of impartiality and objectivity on one side and good news journalism on the other, the Angolan service service did pay more and more attention to methods of mediation and day to day "conflict resolution". An important influence towards this emphasis was the coverage of the South African reconciliation process.[2]
On 1 June 2004, the VoA Portuguese Service replaced Linha Direita, Linha Aberta (Direct Line, Open Line) by Angola Hoje (Angola Today), then broadcast at 1700-1730 UTC (18.00 h local) on the medium wave frequency 1530 kHz and the shortwave frequencies 7290, 11775, and 15545 kHz.

Radio Ecclésia
Radio Ecclésia first came on the air in 1954, but the Catholic station was nationalised by the Marxist MPLA-led government on 24 January 1978. In March 1997 Radio Ecclésia was re-inaugurated in the presence of the Archbishop of Luanda and Angolan political leaders. Nonetheless the station was subjected to political pressure because of its editorial policy. Co-operating closely with Portuguese Catholic broadcaster Radio Renascenca for journalistic training and news services Radio Ecclésia breached semi-official orders to abstain from reporting on dissenting voices in Luanda, the capital of Angola and on the Angolan civil wars going on both in the South as well as in Cabinda since independence in 1975.
According to the Chief of VOA's Portuguese to Africa Service "Radio Ecclésia is by far the Angolan news organization most quoted around the world, so it has a very high profile, of concern to the Angolan government." [3] Radio Ecclésia currently employs some 36 journalists, including 11 correspondents located in several provinces. Journalists and editors have repeatedly been harassed and detained.
The Catholic broadcaster broadcasts 24 hours a day on FM 97,5 MHz in Luanda and from 2000 to 2004 was heard throughout the country on short wave radio via leased facilities abroad. The potential FM audience amounts to 3.5 Mio as compared to Radio Angola's 12 Mio. Already in December 2001, the radio station's FM coverage was to increase with the introduction of FM broadcasts in five of Angola's 18 provinces. This however did not materialize.
Rua Comandante Bula, No.118, 
Sao Paulo-C.P. 3579 Luanda, Angola, +244 (2) 443041, 446105, Studio 445484, Fax: 443093, E-mail:

2000-2004 international broadcasts of Radio Ecclésia
In July 2000, Radio Ecclésia hired two hours airtime daily on transmitters of Radio Netherlands in order to give greater coverage to peace negotiations. Transmissions stopped after two weeks because of technical problems. Ten months later, Radio Ecclésia returned on short wave in April 2001 using the facilities of Deutsche Telekom. Originally scheduled for two hours daily it even extended the schedule on Saturdays. The international programmes remained on the air even as Radio Ecclésia suspended its regular programming for some ten days in July 2001 in protest against Government allegations naming Radio Ecclesia a new Vorgan. Having started broadcasting from South African short wave station in Meyerton, Radio Ecclesia ceased transmissions via Jülich in May 2002. The new schedule was 19.00-20.00 h UTC on  6100 kHz (Meyerton 250 kW, 328°) and changed to 7205 kHz on 1 September, where it remained until August 2004.
Already, in June 2003, Media Minister Hendrick Vaal Neto announced plans to change the existing Press Bill, to allow private TV channels as well as privately-run short wave radio stations. While financial considerations will limit the number of applicants for short wave broadcasting, Radio Ecclesia will certainly be a candidate. The Episcopal Conference of Portugal has purchased equipment for Radio Ecclesia to begin short wave operations from Angola, but the station still needs authorization from the Angola government. Funds had been collected in the annual communications campaign of the Bishops Conference in Portugal. The department of social communication has also received requests for the establishment of radio stations in the last three years from, amongst others, Trans World Radio and Community Radio of ADRA.

Human Rights Watch says political, press freedoms vital to elections
On 13 May 2004, José Eduardo dos Santos, President of the Republic of Angola, told reporters at the Voice of America that he saw no need to rush into general elections, saying such elections must be properly and thoroughly prepared. In a press conference attended by international media, President dos Santos said, “We must establish the conditions for elections in Angola” before proceeding. He said such elections might take place in 2005, or perhaps 2006. The President went on to cite the failure of one party to accept the 1992 election results and the ensuing 10 years of civil war, which caused “enormous damage” to Angola.
Peace in Angola has paved the way for advances in freedom of expression, association and assembly, but in the interior of the country these freedoms continue to be violated, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on 14 July 2004. If properly enforced, the Angolan constitutional provisions that guarantee freedom of expression and free political activity would go a long way towards creating the conditions for free and fair elections. "The Angolan government must ensure that opposition leaders and supporters are permitted to express their views peacefully without fear of reprisals," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "The government should also lift remaining restrictions on the private media, and allow non-government radio stations to broadcast throughout the country."
The private media in Angola is largely independent of party politics and is often critical of government. But the state controls the only daily newspaper and the only non-satellite television station. Radio broadcasting, the medium accessible to most Angolans, remains a government monopoly in most parts of the country, with private radio stations available only in a few cities. The Catholic broadcaster, Rádio Ecclésia, is currently the most accessible source of independent news in the capital, but has been barred from extending its broadcasts to other areas of the country. Human Rights Watch called on Angola’s international donors and trading partners to pay close attention to violations of freedoms of expression, association, and assembly and to make the promotion and protection of such freedoms an integral part of assistance strategies. Donors should also consider supporting free and private media in Angola to broaden the range of opinion heard as the elections approach.

Row over FM repeater for Radio Ecclesia
The government of the province of Huíla in Angola in October 2004 ordered the dismantling of the transmission tower of Rádio Ecclésia, which it says was installed illegally about a week earlier in the Maior Seminary on the outskirts of the city of the Southern town of Lubango. Speaking at a press conference, João de Castro, the local director of social communication, said that Rádio Ecclésia did not inform the government of the assembly of the tower nor the equipping of two studios in the Lubango seminary, which he said transgresses established legal formalities. In an interview on Radio Ecclésia, the coordinator of the Installation Commission of Rádio Ecclésia, Father Simão Pacheco, said that the relay station was intended to remain inactive until a national broadcasting license had been achieved: "We are simply creating the conditions to be ready when Radio Ecclésia gains authorisation to broadcast to the whole country".
Radio Ecclésia remains bound to only broadcast its daily news and entertainment programmes in the Luanda region. Here, it has managed to become a popular and alternative voice since its re-establishment in 1997. The repeated attempts to widen its audience outside the Angolan capital have enhanced the conflict level between Radio Ecclésia and state authorities. Towards the end of 2004, rumours appeared about growing concern of donor nations about the official handling of the Radio Ecclesia-matter.

Media groups recommend opening up the airwaves
In October 2004, the Minister for Social Communication announced that his department is to present a new version of the media law. Before its adoption, this text would be submitted for the approval of media organizations, institutions and civil society. According to Mr Hendrick Vaal Neto, the aim of these consultations over the new text is to achieve the widest possible consensus. This new draft law was first mooted two years ago by the President of Angola. A special commission was later set up to work on it. In the annual worldwide index of press freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in October 2004, Angola is listed as no. 91 of 167 countries.
16 Nov 2004 (IRIN) - After years of political instability, transforming Angola's state-run media into public service institutions is seen as a fundamental step to entrenching democracy, according to a group of  international media watchdogs. A joint study, conducted by the International Media Support Group, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, showed that the dissemination of information in post-war Angola remained firmly in the hands of the state.
The official Radio Nacional de Angola, with the widest coverage and correspondents in all the provincial capitals, had no competition, while the national television broadcaster tended to focus its attention on events unfolding in Luanda, the capital. The study claimed evidence pointing to a bias that favoured the government and  often ignored opposition views. "The station also resorts to old-style direct propaganda against government opponents," the report said, but acknowledged that RNA had recently become "more open to debate and call-in type"  programmes.
 It was unlikely that the government would relinquish control of the airwaves  overnight, the researchers underscored, and suggested that, in the push towards transformation, efforts be made to initiate "minor projects" in state institutions.  Although the campaign for greater press freedom would benefit from the  establishment of an umbrella media body, it would be worthwhile to muster the support of civil society groups in this effort. However, one of the drawbacks was the existing rivalry among NGOs over funding. The proposed solution, while still advocating a media coalition, was to establish  "as many concrete media projects" as possible, drawing on local expertise.
According to the results of the assessment, Angolan media workers were starting to show fatigue over international experts and wanted a more active role in  project implementation.  Journalists had also said the ongoing revision of current media legislation was "closed" and were demanding greater involvement in the process. But a lack of basic journalistic skills was a problem expressed in all media  institutions, and this was expected to become an even bigger issue as the first post-war general election approached.  The researchers recommended that the journalists' union organise courses in  election coverage, coupled with skills in financial and political reporting.

Cabinda - a widely forgotten on going conflict
The Angolan army arbitrarily detained and tortured civilians with impunity in Cabinda, and continues to restrict their freedom of movement despite an apparent end to the decades-long separatist conflict in the oil-rich enclave, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released in December 2004. In the past year, the Angolan army has subjected civilians to extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and other mistreatment, as well as  sexual violence. The Angolan army also denies civilians their freedom of movement. Human Rights Watch found little evidence of recent abuses committed by rebel factions against civilians, probably because of the rebels' weakened capacity.
Further details:

Media Institute of Southern Africa operating in Angola again
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has started operating in Angola again, opening an office after a long period of inactivity. The office is planning several projects, including an "Open the Airwaves" campaign to underline the need for an independent public broadcaster. The Angolan MISA office is planning a series on on-air debates on the issue, but has not yet found a radio station to air them. There are ongoing negotiations with Luanda-based Catholic Radio Ecclesia. The radio is believed to be afraid that the debates might prove controversial just as it is seeking government permission to broadcast nationwide. Radio Ecclesia has been battling the government for years to obtain a shortwave licence to cover more than just Luanda.
( via Radio Netherlands Media Network)

Camatondo: Radio Drama Launched in Angola
IRIN Radio Southern Africa, in collaboration with Radio National Angola, has launched a serial drama entitled "Camatondo" to support Angola's post-war reconciliation. The drama explores the stories of refugees and displaced persons, while also providing information related to healthy living and everyday development challenges facing rural Angolans. Camatondo mirrors the evolving realities and challenges faced by the resettling rural population, including storylines about reconciliation, psychological trauma, agricultural modernization, HIV, gender issues, micro-credit schemes, governance and electoral education, among others.
Set against a love story, the drama uses entertainment-education to create informative stories. The project encourages participation by involving a network of advisors, and "stringers" who are humanitarian and development workers based in other organisations working across the country. The stringers are encouraged to submit story ideas for the drama and also help to provide the scriptwriters and organisers with
feedback. To support the access of listeners to the drama and other programmes, the project organiser, IRIN distributed 2000 Free Play wind up radios in 2004.
For more information about the radio drama or IRIN Radio in Angola, please contact:
Daniel Walter - Regional Project Manager
United Nations - IRIN Radio Southern Africa
daniel @

Vernacular language reporters in Angola want more airtime
Vernacular language reporters in Angola have called for more broadcasting time on the provincial and regional stations of Radio Nacional de Angola's specialised Ngola Yetu channel. The first national meeting of vernacular language reporters in Luanda also highlighted the need for the inclusion of Bangala in the provincial stations of Malanje, Lunda-Norte and Lunda-Sul, Songo (Bie), Kwanhama (Huila), Nyhaneca Umbe (Benguela), Ngangela, Umbundo and Tchokwe, (Cunene). The participants also called for more vernacular staff in the provincial and regional stations, and the nomination of senior editors, editors, sub-editors and production assistants.
(AngolaPress via Radio Netherlands Media Network 10 September 2005)

Dutch Catholic charities support Angola's Radio Ecclesia
Three Dutch Catholic development organizations will use the occasion of Liberation Day, 5 May,  to gather support for Radio Ecclesia, the only independent broadcaster in Angola. Pop band The Sheer and Angolan student Juliano Rodriques will, with the help of a helicopter, attend four different festivals at Leeuwaarden, Rotterdam, Zwolle and Vlissingen. The charities, working under their umbrella organisation Cordaid, will highlight press freedom in Angola at the invitation of the National Committee 4 and 5 May, which coordinates the events on Liberation day.
Juliano Rodrigues is 21 years old, and lives and studies in Rotterdam. When he completes his studies, he plans to return to Angola to help in the reconstruction of the country following the bloody civil war. Juliano is the Chairman of JAN (Young Angolans in the Netherlands). He says: "Young people in the Netherlands don't realise how lucky they are that they were born in such a country as the Netherlands. Many young people have to grow up in countries where there's war and extreme poverty." (Radio Netherlands Media Network 13 April 2006)

[1] For more information on clandestine broadcasting please refer to
[2] Thaddeus C. Penas and Gregory Pirio: The Voice of America Experience, in: Conflict Resolution Notes, April 1997, pp 35-37, cp.
[3] VOA Communications World 21 July 2001.

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