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Angola's Church radio still barred outside Luanda

afrol News, 1 October - Radio Ecclésia, a Catholic Church broadcaster that remains Angola's leading independent media, is still limited to transmitting only to the Luanda area. Attempts to set up a relay tower in Lubango in southern Angola were harshly rejected by local authorities, dismantling the installation.

Angola's church-owned radio station has for years sought to obtain a national broadcasting license; something that has repeatedly been turned down by Angolan authorities. Outside Luanda, government-controlled radio broadcasters therefore still totally dominate the media environment as independent newspapers are also hard to get.

Radio Ecclésia remains bound to only broadcast its daily news and entertainment programmes in the Luanda region. Here, it has managed to become a popular and alternative voice since its establishment in 1954.

The repeated attempts to widen its audience outside the Angolan capital have enhanced the conflict level between Radio Ecclésia and state authorities. Thus, the appearance of a radio relay installation in the southern city of Lubango on Wednesday automatically made Provincial Governor Ramos da Cunha sceptical.

The governor, after establishing that the relay station was the property of Radio Ecclésia, immediately ordered the dismantling of the installation. Radio staff insisted the relay station was inactive and only put up to avoid its "deterioration or theft" from its insecure storage. It was however not possible to change the mind of Governor da Cunha.

In an interview on Radio Ecclésia, Father Pacheco of the Catholic Church in Lubango said that the relay station was intended to remain inactive until a national broadcasting license had been achieved. "We are simply creating the conditions to be ready when Radio Ecclésia gains authorisation to broadcast to the whole country," he said.

Radio Ecclésia has been a thorn in the side of the Angolan government ever since it started broadcasting. The independent radio station airs relatively uncensored news and dissenting views on Angolan affairs. Between 1975 and 1997, the broadcaster was mostly was shut down by authorities.

Since 1997, however, Radio Ecclésia has steadily reported on items otherwise taboo in Angolan media, such as the civil war, conflict diamonds and opposition views. Journalists and editors have repeatedly been harassed and detained.

The dissident broadcaster currently can be heard over the FM network in the Luanda area, where it has a relatively strong relay station. Furthermore, it is audible on the Internet and occasionally on short-wave.

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