Ref: OM / 120 / 10
Lobito, May 3, 2010
Open Letter from OMUNGA in response to the Miniister's statement:
Lobito, May 3, 2010 To the Hon. Minister of Communications:
Press freedom is one of the important pillars of democratic societies. Directly connected to the right to information and freedom of expression, it emerges in the present context as one of the great challenges of our times. Therefore OMUNGA recognizes the commitment and responsibility of the journalists of our country. However, we followed with great concern the extracts from the declaration of Hon. Minister , broadcast by the Public Television of Angola (TPA) during their news service on May 3, 2010.
The Hon. Minister trivialized the essence and importance of freedom of the press by confusing the existence of press freedom in Angola with the existence of private media, and fact that private newspapers can be sold on the streets and concluding therefore that there is no constraint on journalists. The Hon. Minister forgot (of course) to refer to limitations on the installation of community radio stations at the national level; this she justifies by the absence of proper regulation.
OMUNGA urges people to remember the manipulation of the various public media . We want to point out the role of mass media in the outcome of 2009 elections; and the manipulation of the constitutional process, exemplified by the lack of information about the processes of demolitions, forced evictions and undue expropriation of land, as happened recently in Lubango. We believe that the Hon. Minister knew about the ban imposed by the Hon. Governor of Huila province on local media regarding coverage and dissemination of that government's actions against some 3000 families. We believe that the Hon. Minister learned of the decision and announcement of the National Council for Social Communication on the subject. OMUNGA further remembers the manipulation of information about the situation that currently exists in Cabinda, in connection with the arrests of human rights defenders. OMUNGA could not but take this opportunity to remember the limitations that are targeted in relation to access to the media, so we elucidate:
The Provincial Director of Social Communication Benguela as a spokesman for the provincial government of Benguela, exposed himself in flagrant violation of elementary rights by reading a statement on March 24, 2010, threatening citizens not to participate in a peaceful demonstration organized by the Benguela branch of OMUNGA for March 25, 2010, issued on local radio;
The Provincial Director of Social Communication Benguela as a spokesman for the provincial government of Benguela, exposed himself in flagrant violation of basic rights for having made false and offensive statements against the association OMUNGA in an interview with Voice of America on March 24 2010 in repeatoing arguments about the hindrance of the march organized by `abusive’ OMUNGA Benguela to the March 25, 2010 made by Hon. Mr. Governor of Benguela Province;
The province of Benguela Broadcaster (RNA) and the Commercial Radio Morena have been unable to issue the statement from OMUNGA on the march organized for March 25, 2010 against the demolitions and forced evictions;
The province of Benguela Broadcaster (RNA) has issued an interview during the program `Morning Round-up’ with Mr Lee White, general counsel of the provincial leadership of the Interior, March 26, 2010, on the reasons for preventing misuse of travel organized by OMUNGA to March 25, 2010, by Hon. Mr. Governor of Benguela Province, without giving notice to the association in the spirit of ethics and presenting conflicting opinions. This station later prevented the right of reply.
Thus, we take this superb opportunity to transcribe the text entitled "FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION" published in http://www.unesco.pt/cgi-bin/comunicacao/temas/com_tema.php?t=10: "In accordance with the its Constitution, UNESCO promotes freedom of expression, fundamental human right guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Promoting freedom of expression implies promotion of press freedom, independence and media pluralism, democracy, peace and tolerance. This promotion is done through sensitization and monitoring activities, the creation of a consultation service on legislation in the area of media and awareness among governments, parliamentarians and decision makers about the importance of such principles.
UNESCO supports independent media in conflict zones so that they can play an active role in preventing and resolving conflicts and in transition towards a situation of peace. It also supports the creation of radio and community newspapers, tools essential to the restoration of social ties and the establishment of a reconciliation process. "
As a case in point, we quote here, from a vehicle of information and (obviously) of free expression, taking liberty to transcribe part of the Message from UN Secretary General on this date:
"Murder and detention are only the most visible forms of silencing journalists. Fear seizes often journalists who censor. This too is unacceptable, journalists must be able to perform their functions without being intimidated and censoring themselves. I am u also concerned that some governments are preventing access to the Internet and the work of journalists based in this use , and others who use the "new social media". Naturally, the use of blogs has grown in countries where restrictions on the media are more severe. Today, the CPJ said, about 45% of workers in the media world who have been arrested are bloggers.
"I urge all governments to respect the rights of these citizens, who may lack the necessary legal or political knowledge to help them get their freedom. The annual celebration of World Press Freedom Day is also an opportunity to reflect on the important role of media in covering global issues. This year focuses on the potential of these bodies in promoting dialogue, reconciliation and mutual understanding. In fact, the press plays a key role in the rejection of entrenched positions on religious and political issues and other differences among people. The mass media may also give voice to minorities and marginalized groups, expanding and reshaping the debate within a community or between communities.
"In societies that are striving to rebuild themsleves after a conflict, the existence of free and responsible news media is essential to good governance and to build trust between the leaders and the public. Governments that restrict freedom of speech and press are acting against their interests and the society they belong to.
On this World Day of Press Freedom, I pay tribute to all those who work in difficult conditions to ensure that the rest of world can access a free and impartial information. Let us renew our determination to protect their freedom and security again and proclaim our commitment to free and independent media as essential agents of human rights, development and peace. " Source: Press release, SG/SM12214 of 05/01/2009
That's why OMUNGA, believing in the real value of information, takes the opportunity to advocate for:
The immediate end of manipulating the media by the Executive, or by the majority party;
The immediate permission for the installation and transmissions by Community Broadcasters;
Let us be vigilant to see what will be the treatment by the social public media authorities of the country of this public position advanced by OMUNGA
José António Martins Patrocínio