By Jean-Paul Marthoz/CPJ Senior Adviser
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (left) and Anibal Cavaco Silva, president of Portugal, in Lisbon in 2009. (AFP/Joao Cortesao)
Portuguese journalists are increasingly concerned by Angola’s growing investment and influence in their country. Buoyed by petrodollars and diamonds, powerful Angolan interests have been indulging in a buying spree in their former colonial power. Angolan capital invested in Portugal increased 35 times in the past decade, according to news reports. In a process often acidly described in Lisbon as a form of “reverse colonization,” Angolans have gobbled up not only significant chunks of Portugal’s banking, telecommunications, and energy companies, but also invested in the Portuguese media sector.
One source of concern is the Newshold media group, a company owned by Pineview Overseas, a Panama-based offshore company, whose shareholders are powerful Angolan figures including tycoon Alvaro Sobrinho. Newshold controls Sol, Portugal’s third largest weekly, and owns stakes in two leading magazines, Visâo and Expresso, as well as Correio da Manhâ, the largest-circulation Lisbon tabloid, and the business paper Jornal de Negocios. It has also expressed interest in case the Portuguese government eventually decides to privatize the public service broadcaster RTP (Radio e Televisâo Portuguesa).
Many Angolan investors are known to be closely linked to Angola’s presidential entourage and the MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola), which has ruled the country without interruption since independence in 1975. Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, is the top investor in the Portuguese telecommunications and multimedia company ZON.
These investments would likely raise fewer objections if Angola were a beacon of press freedom. In fact, Angola is one of Africa’s worst offenders on freedom of expression. Its media are strictly controlled by the ruling party, and independent journalists areregularly harassed. Ten journalists have been killed for their work, with absolute impunity, since CPJ began keeping records in 1992.