Beatrice Chabaya

Angola’s proposed national security law has raised alarm among press freedom advocates, who fear it could severely curtail the public’s right to information and expose journalists to increased harassment and censorship by authorities.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on Monday, expressing grave concerns about the potential implications of the National Security Bill.

Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, warned that if enacted, the law could empower security agencies to intimidate journalists and legitimize telecommunications shutdowns at their discretion.

“The provisions citing constitutional limits to the exercise of power cannot disguise this law’s repressive intent,” Mumo stated, urging parliamentarians to reject any legislation that fails to meet international human rights standards.

According to a draft of the bill reviewed by CPJ, the proposed law would establish a national security system under the president’s authority, comprising of the police, intelligence services, and the military. It grants these entities the power to prohibit radio broadcasts or disrupt telecommunication services under undefined “exceptional circumstances” and “within the limits of the constitution.”

Teixeira Cândido, secretary-general of the Union of Angolan Journalists, expressed concern over provisions allowing security organs to disrupt telecommunications and internet access “for no apparent reason,” which could limit journalistic work.

David Boio, owner of the online news website Camunda News, which ceased operations in 2023 due to police harassment, warned that the proposed law would provide authorities with a legal framework to target critics.
“The bill is as invasive as possible with authorities allowed to legally put journalists and anyone under surveillance, bug their home, their car without the intervention of a judge, everything at the discretion and mercy of the repressive apparatus itself,” Boio told CPJ via messaging app.

Florindo Chivucute, president of the human rights group Friends of Angola, emphasized that the national security law aligns with a broader pattern of repressive legislation, including a bill targeting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) currently under consideration.

Meanwhile, André Mussamo, president of the Angola chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), expressed concerns that media freedom NGOs could face extinction if the proposed NGO law is approved.

CPJ reached out to National Assembly Secretary-General Pedro Neri and António Paulo, president of the first parliamentary specialist committee reviewing the bill, for comment. However, both declined to provide specific remarks, citing the ongoing review process.

Adão de Almeida, Minister of the State and Civil House of the President, did not respond to CPJ’s inquiries.

No date has been announced for the finalization of the review and resubmission of the bill for a final parliamentary vote before being sent for presidential signature.