Angela Quintal: Creating safer spaces for journalists in SA and abroad

Angela Quintal spent five years at Rhodes University in the late 1980s, obtaining a
BJourn and LLB degrees. In her role as the Africa programme coordinator for the
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), she has travelled full-circle, merging her dual
passions of journalism and human rights in the CPJ’s fight to promote press freedom
worldwide, defending the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of
As a student, Quintal set up the Rhodes University branch of Lawyers for Human
Rights, was a student volunteer for their street law project, was involved with the
Lawyers for Human Rights, and In Camera, the annual magazine of the Law Faculty.
After qualifying, Quintal worked for over two decades as a journalist in South Africa
before moving to New York in 2016 to take up her role with the CPJ. She has been the
editor of the Mail and Guardian, edited The Witness and the Natal Mercury and was
presidential correspondent during Nelson Mandela’s term as South Africa’s first
democratically elected president, from 1994 to 1999.
In a recent interview with the Daily Maverick, Quintal stated that, “I have never been
about believing what I’m told without checking it out for myself – and reading and
listening.” The same article notes that the room to question, freedom to read what you
like and even the right to disagree are not things that she takes for granted, well aware
that these actions have resulted in journalists being imprisoned, ‘disappeared’ and even
Angela Quintal was herself arrested in Tanzania along with a Kenyan colleague, while
investigating the disappearance of a journalist. She and her colleague were held and
assaulted for several hours. The disappearance that they were investigating has to date
still not been investigated within Tanzania. This incident brought home again to Quintal
how privilege works, and she recognises the varied layers of privilege she holds include
her skin colour, having the backing of an organisation such as the CPJ and its network,
and the passport she holds.
Quintal is the daughter of Portuguese immigrants to South Africa, which led to her
experiencing both bigotry and exclusion while growing up in Broederbond-dominated
Worcester. She understands the fear and vulnerability of those who are not ‘celebrity
journalists’, or who don’t work for a publication with prominence or clout, and with the
CPJ she strives to make the world safer for these journalists.