In a statement signed by its secretary general, Teixeira Cândido, the SJA called on journalists to refrain from taking part in political disputes, following the decision by state-owned channels Televisão Pública de Angola (TPA) and TV Zimbo to suspend the activities of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) following acts of intimidation that targeted its journalists during a demonstration on Saturday, called by the party.
The SJA said that the political context, a year before general elections in 2022, requires "serenity" and noted that the president of UNITA, Adalberto da Costa Júnior, repudiated on the same day the threats and obstruction to the activity of journalists from those channels.
For the union, it is necessary to "maintain social peace and the democratic state and the rule of law", calling on the management of TPA and TV Zimbo to use the dialogue as the "most sensible way to safeguard all interests at stake".
On the other hand, the union "reiterates the appeal to journalists to refrain from participating in political disputes under penalty of subverting the role of neutrality that is incumbent on them in these and in all circumstances".
The decision of TPA and TV Zimbo was announced on Monday, in the prime time of the two state-run television stations, with the respective anchors announcing the decision of the administrations of the two media to abandon the coverage of activities promoted by UNITA, not to interview its leaders or other officials or militants and demanding a retraction and public apology from the party leadership.
On Saturday, during a march called by the National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which brought together in Luanda thousands of militants, sympathizers and supporters of this and other political forces, as well as members of civil society, in favor of fair and free elections, the journalists of the public channels were the target of intimidation and threats.
The attitude was condemned by the president of the Union of Angolan Journalists (SJA), Teixeira Cândido, who described it as "an obstruction to the exercise of press freedom which is a fundamental right that all public and private entities must respect".
Also the president of UNITA, Adalberto da Costa Júnior, repudiated the act of intolerance and said that the threats did not come from the UNITA leadership, while lamenting the exclusion that the party claims to be a target in the media coverage of state organs.
UNITA has repeatedly criticized the fact that its president, elected at the party's last congress, held in November 2019, has never been interviewed on TPA.
Adalberto da Costa Júnior was interviewed on TV Zimbo, belonging to the private Medianova group, in December of that year, but in July 2020, the 'media' group (which includes the newspaper O País, Radio Mais and TV Zimbo) was handed over to the National Asset Recovery Service and is now controlled by the Ministry of Telecommunications, Information Technology and Media (MINTTICS).
In April this year, MINTTICS suspended three private channels (Record TV Africa, Zap Viva and Vida TV), alleging legal non-compliances related to licensing.
So far, MINTTICS has given no further explanation on the procedures being followed, nor has it advanced any deadline for the channels to resume broadcasting, which led Vida TV to close its doors and ZAP to announce this Tuesday gradual layoffs as well.
MINTTICS released a note this Saturday regretting the aggression and intimidation to which the reporting teams were subjected to. It also expressed solidarity with the journalists and called on the entities that defend journalists not to remain silent "in the face of the flagrant and reprehensible situation of political intolerance", which the general secretary of the union considered "unreasonable".
Teixeira Cândido also found it strange that MINTTICS "is only releasing a statement now" and has never spoken out on other occasions.
"We have had several situations in which journalists have been assaulted, detained, or prevented from doing their work, and the ministry has not spoken out. So it was a surprise," said the head of the SJA.
The MPLA, the ruling party for 45 years, on Monday called on the judiciary to hold to account those responsible for the "barbaric act" that put at risk the physical integrity and dignity of information professionals.
Angola has general elections scheduled for 2022 and is already experiencing a pre-election period marked by growing tensions between the ruling MPLA party and UNITA, which has joined other opposition political forces in a United Democratic Front to win the electoral dispute.