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It was surprising to see Angola’s media regulator on Thursday accusing the nation’s only state-run newspaper of running a story that distorted a speech by the leader of the main opposition party to make him look favourable towards the government.
The National Media Council, a government run body comprised of journalists, seems determined to help Angola’s media sector become less biased towards the government . It urged Jornal de Angola to be more rigorous in its coverage.
The newspaper ran a story on March 14 based on a speech by UNITA leader Isaias Samakuva with the title: “Samakuva sees growth in several sectors of the economy,” when his words had instead been highly critical of the government, the regulator said.
Jornal de Angola “should avoid arriving at conclusions that may change the meaning of the facts reported even though the story may reflect the opinion of the newspaper or of the journalist who wrote it,” the regulator said in a statement published in Jornal de Angola.
UNITA spokesman Alcides Sakala, whose party had lodged the complaint with the regulator about the story, said the regulator’s move was a step in the right direction for a country that is opening up after a three-decade long rule that ended in 2002.
But Angola still ranks 119 out of 175 countries in Reporters Without Borders media freedom index.
The state owns two national broadcasters, the only radio station with nationwide coverage, and Jornal de Angola, the country’s most influential daily newspaper which often runs headlines praising the ruling MPLA party.
This has helped the MPLA secure almost 82 percent of the votes in Angola’s 2008 parliamentary elections – the first to take place after a civil war that ended in 2002.
The question now is whether Angola’s ruling MPLA party, which has ruled the oil producing nation for over three decades, is finally ready to loosen its grip on the media before the country holds parliamantary and presidential elections in 2012?