Luanda – Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos called on Friday for a crackdown on social media, heightening concerns about the tolerance of dissent or political opposition in Africa’s number two oil producer.
In a surprise television address, dos Santos, who has run the former Portuguese colony since 1979, said websites such as Facebook were useful for disseminating information but were being abused to publish “derogatory and morally offensive content”.
He demanded the government introduce legislation to curb such activities.
His statement came hours after a judge suspended the trial of a group of activists accused of rebellion for organising a reading of U.S. academic Gene Sharp’s 1993 book: “From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation”.
The book’s blurb describes it as “a blueprint for non-violent resistance to repressive regimes”.
The 15 youths on trial have been electronically tagged and placed under house arrest until proceedings resume next month, the judge said.
Dos Santos has maintained peace since the end of civil war in 2002 and overseen rapid economic growth but his opponents say he uses a well-funded military and patronage from oil sales to keep a grip on power.
However, a halving of oil prices since last year has shaken the system, forcing massive cuts in government spending and dollar shortages, both of which have increased social and political tensions in one of the world’s most unequal societies.
For many urban Angolans, the Internet has become the primary medium for expression of political anger because of the dangers of protesting on the streets.