(AFP) – Jun 4, 2010
LUANDA — The purchase of three of Angola's most independent weekly newspapers by a private media company raised concern among human rights groups Friday about press freedom in the secretive oil giant.
The firm, Media Investments, announced Friday that it had purchased the newspapers Semanario Angolense and A Capital and a 40 percent stake in Novo Jornal, saying the move was guided "exclusively by market factors".
The little-known company did not disclose its owners, leading rights activists to voice concern that the sale was sponsored by sources close to the regime who wanted to silence the independent media.
"This is the biggest blow to democracy and freedom of expression in the country. This is an institutional coup of the ruling oligarchy to silence all the dissenting voices and to have everyone under their control," said Elias Isaac, director of the Open Society Institute in Angola.
"The business is not viable. There?s no profit to be made. So there must be a political goal behind," said Rafael Marques, an independent journalist and human rights advocate.
News of the sale comes on the heels of an announcement by long-time President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' office that the administration wanted to pursue a policy of greater openess with the media.
Marques said the timing of the two announcements was ironic.
"They?re opening up to the media, but on the other hand there is no more critical media," he said.
Angola came in 119th out of 175 countries in watchdog group Reporters Without Borders' 2009 ranking of press freedom, three places lower than in 2008.
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