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ARTICLE 19 calls for lifting of media restrictions prior to elections

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is an ARTICLE 19 press release:

Angola: Media Restrictions Must Be Lifted Before Elections

ARTICLE 19 today recommended that sweeping changes are needed to Angola's electoral and media laws to ensure that the 2008/2009 Parliament and Presidential Elections will be fair. A detailed report released today identified serious shortcomings in Angola's electoral laws and regulations, its press law, the criminal law and access to information laws, all of which impose illegitimate restrictions on free speech and are easily abused to silence political opponents.

ARTICLE 19's report, "Freedom of Expression and the Angolan Elections", is particularly critical of Angola's defamation laws. Despite a 2005 ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee that finding Angola in breach of its international obligations in this area, the legal regime is still unduly strict and easily abused. The electoral laws, too, contain numerous vague and unnecessary restrictions - for example, on making "unrealistic" election promises, or acting contrary to "ethics" and "social customs". Restrictions such as these are easily abused to restrict freedom of expression. These restrictions limit both what candidates can say, and how the media can report on matters of public interest. Finally, Angola's access to information laws place the state in firm control of what public information is released.

Overall, this results in a legal and regulatory situation that hinders rather than promotes the free flow of information and ideas. John Barker, Director of ARTICLE 19's Africa Programme said:

"The upcoming elections will afford an unprecedented opportunity for citizens to create a culture of openness, democracy and good governance in Angola. However, to allow for the effective exercise of freedom of expression and of access to information during the election period, some changes in existing electoral and media laws are necessary."

For a copy of the report in English, see: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/publications/angola-foe-elections.pdf

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