SÃo TomÉ and PrÍncipe
|Official Country Name:||Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe|
|Region (Map name):||Africa|
Background & General Characteristics
São Tomé and Príncipe is a small-island nation, made up of two main islands and several small islets. It is located off the western coast of Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea, 125 miles off the coast of Gabon. The islands are of volcanic origin, with rich soil and vegetation. This nation occupies a small area of 386 square miles. It has about 160,000 inhabitants, 95 percent living on São Tomé. The population is formed of six ethnic groups: mestiços or mixed-blood descendants of African slaves; angolares, descendants of Angolan slaves; forros, descendants of freed slaves after slavery was abolished; serviçais, contracted laborers who live temporarily on the island; tongas, children from the serviçais; and Europeans, mainly Portuguese. The official language is Portuguese and Lungwa Santomé is the main dialect. The dialects are creole languages based on Portuguese. The major religion is Roman Catholic, but there are Evangelical Protestants and Seventh-Day Adventists as well.
São Tomé and Príncipe was discovered by the Portuguese in 1486. The colony's aspiration for independence was recognized after the 1974 coup in Portugal. The country gained independence in 1975. At first the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe was the country's sole political party, but in 1990 the constitution created a multiparty democracy. Manuel Pinto da Costa was elected president and served until 1991. Since then the country has struggled to improve the economy and conditions of life. It has had an established market economy since 1991. Miguel dos Anjos da Cunha Lisboa Trovoada became the first democratically elected president and served two five-year terms (1990-2001), the maximum allowed by the constitution. Since 2001, Fradique Melo Bandeira de Menezes was the country's third president. Fradique de Menezes was a wealthy cacao exporter and was elected with 65 percent of the votes. Among his main plans to assure the country's economy is the generation of revenues from new offshore oil fields, starting in 2003, that will be used to improve mainly the infrastructure of public services. Cocoa has been the main product, but has declined due to drought and mismanagement. Fuel, most manufactured goods, and food depend on imports. São Tomé benefited from US $200 million in debt relief in 2000 under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program.
The following weekly newspapers are published in São Tomé and Príncipe: Revolução , an official organ of the Ministry of Information, Diário da República and Tribuna , both of which are also online. The Diárioda República , with the aid of the Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda of Portugal, is the first official web-newspaper of a country with Portuguese as the official language. Povo is a weekend newspaper and magazine. Tela Non Diario can be accessed online.
The press and media systems are important vehicles for the ongoing economic activities and measures adopted by the government. Freedom of expression is protected constitutionally and respected in practice. Although the state controls a local press agency and radio and television stations, there are no laws forbidding independent broadcasting. Free airtime is granted to opposition parties. In June 1995 the police assumed control of the national radio station due to a strike by the employees of the station for salary increases. Further developments led to a coup attempt on August 15, 1995. The insurgents justified the coup as an alert to the population about corruption and political incompetence. This political situation ended with a "memorandum of understanding" and the promise of president Trovoada to restructure several governmental organizations. Newsletters and pamphlets with governmental criticism can circulate freely.
Broadcast & Electronic News Media
The country has a telecommunication infrastructure and full Internet services are being developed by the national telecom, the Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicações (CST), of which 51 percent is owned by Portugal Telecommunications International (PTI). Tecnologia de Sistemas Informático is the main enterprise of the local computer community and it is jointly administered with Bahnhof Internet AB of Sweden. National radio broadcasting is done by Radio Nacional de São Tomé and Príncipe, which is a state-operated radio service. There are two AM radio broadcast stations and four FM. There are 38,000 radios in the country and 23,000 television sets (1997 statistics), two Internet service providers with about 670 Internet host sites, and 500 Internet users (2000 statistics). Television broadcasting is done by TVS—Televisão Sãotomense, also a state-operated broadcasting agency.
Ewing, Debra, Robert C. Kelly, and Denise Youngblood, eds. São Tomé and Príncipe Country Review 1999/2000 . http://www.cia.gov , 1999.
Hodges, Tony. São Tomé and Príncipe . Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.
Mata, Inocência. Diálogo com as ilhas: sobre cultura e literatura de São Tomé e Príncipe
. Lisboa: Edições Colibri, 1998.
São Tomé and Príncipe Country Study Guide (World Foregin Policy and Government Library) . International Business Publications, 2nd ed., 2001.
Shaw, Caroline S. São Tomé and Príncipe . Santa Barbara, California: Clio Press, 1995.
STPinfo Notícias . June 2002. Available from 184.108.40.206/noticias.htm .
São Tomé e Príncipe Homepage . 2002. Available from www.stome.com .