“Radio as a Soldier”: The Role of Colonial and anti-Colonial Broadcasting during the Independence War in Angola, 1961-1974


After the end of World War II, the Portuguese dictatorship led by Salazar maintained its position of not negotiating the independence of any of its colonial territories in Africa and Asia. This led to the occupation of Dadrá and Nagar-Aveli by the Indian Union in 1954 and to the outbreak of the liberation war in Angola in 1961 (later extended to Guinea Bissau and Mozambique). In this paper we will discuss how the beginning of the independence war in Angola led to a significant alteration in Salazar’s policy towards broadcasting to and in the colonies. While until the 1950s no real strategy had been developed regarding broadcasting to the Empire (Ribeiro, 2014), in the 1960s radio became part of the Portuguese war strategy, while also acquiring a central role in the communication strategy of the Angolan pro-independence movements. Thus, during late colonialism broadcasting was used by both sides of the war do disseminate propaganda and to promote the morale of the soldiers on the ground.

Based on documental research and oral interviews with former directors and employees of radio stations based in Angola during the 1960s and 1970s, the paper will demonstrate how the radio landscape in Angola evolved from a collection of local radio clubs operated by the Portuguese expats (Moorman, 2019) to a network of stations that aired colonial propaganda. Central to this network were Voice of Angola (Voz de Angola) that broadcast in local languages targeted to the African population, and the Official Broadcaster of Angola (Emissora Oficial de Angola), targeted to the white settlers and to the Portuguese military. Both broadcasters were financed by the colonial authorities and were perceived as preforming central functions in the war: disseminating colonial propaganda among the population and promoting the morale of the Portuguese troops. In a nutshell, as described by the director of the Official Broadcaster of Angola, António Oliveira Pires, “radio was a soldier” that played a central role in the war effort. This same role was attributed to broadcasting by the pro-independence movements that broadcast anti-colonial propaganda to the audiences in Angola. Among the programmes aired by the pro-independence movements the most important was Angolan Fighter (Angola Combatente), broadcast from Brazzaville and produced by The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

By discussing the central role played by broadcasting in the liberation war in Angola the papers aims to make a contribution to the study of the functions performed by the media in Portuguese late colonialism and in the birth of the new nation of Angola.