Cape Verde stands out in the region for a favourable working environment for journalists. Press freedom is guaranteed by the constitution. Nonetheless, the heads of state-owned media, who dominate the media landscape, are appointed directly by the government.
Given its size, Cape Verde enjoys a very diverse media landscape. There are five TV channels, including the state-owned Televisão de Cabo Verde (TCV), the most popular, which covers the entire archipelago, three privately owned channels, and a Portuguese channel aimed at Portuguese-speaking African countries. The country also has more than 20 radio stations, including the state-owned Radio de Cabo Verde RCV, which has the most listeners. Print and online media include a state-owned news agency (Infopress), two privately owned newspapers and about five news sites. The archipelago’s geography, however, makes dissemination difficult throughout all ten islands.
Although the law that guarantees pluralism stipulates that all political parties should be able to express themselves through the media, the reality is less clear-cut. Until 2019, the government appointed the heads of Radiotelevisão Caboverdiana (RTC), but now an independent council appoints them. In practice, however, the council’s decisions always coincide with what the government wants, and the RTC’s media outlets nearly always prioritise coverage of what the government is doing. Under state pressure, self-censorship is widespread. Cape Verde maintains a culture of secrecy, with the government not hesitating to restrict access to information of public interest.
The constitution and laws facilitate media work, journalists are able to report freely, and a law safeguards the confidentiality of their sources. However, journalists can be charged with violating the secrecy of a judicial investigation under a provision in the code of criminal procedure that was adopted in 2005. This provision caused no problems until January 2022, when it was used to bring charges against three journalists and the privately owned media outlet they were working for.
Cape Verde’s state-owned media employ more than 70% of the country’s journalists. The economic environment is also more favourable for journalists in this sector, which offers better salaries and more job stability. The state media nonetheless face financial problems and depend on state subsidies. The privately owned media are held back by the small size of the advertising market and the lack of state subsidies for private-sector broadcasters.
Cape Verde’s society is open and almost free of taboos. Few social, cultural or religious aspects hinder journalistic activities. In contrast to most other African countries, around 70% of news media employees are women. However, the small size of the islands tends to limit investigative journalism. Reporters are usually reluctant to tackle stories that involve someone they know.
Since democracy was established in 1991, no journalist has been detained, abducted, placed under surveillance or followed in connection with their work. Some journalists working at privately owned media outlets have, however, reported being threatened after a story was published or broadcast. Similarly, journalists covering the ruling party or opposition parties may be harassed on social media by their supporters.