Angola must abandon defamation charges against ‘Blood Diamonds’ journalist
Angola’s authorities must abandon efforts to resuscitate the criminal defamation case against investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, said Amnesty International today.
Rafael Marques de Morais is due to appear in court on 28 May 2015 for sentencing.
On 25 May the Public Prosecutor in his trial requested that the judge convict him of criminal defamation and sentence him to 30 days in prison, despite a settlement agreement last week which resulted in more than 20 defamation charges against him being dropped.
“The Public Prosecutor’s request for Rafael Marques de Morais to be found guilty of criminal defamation is a clear sign of abuse of the judiciary to intimidate those who dare to speak truth to power in Angola,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.
“This prosecution must not go ahead, and the Attorney General and Public Prosecutor must unconditionally drop all charges against him following the terms of the agreement negotiated in open court.”
“As the generals and companies have already plainly recognized that Rafael Marques de Morais did not commit defamation against them, there is no reason why the Public Prosecutor should insist on continuing the case and pursuing punitive action.”
Rafael Marques de Morais has been on trial on charges related to Blood Diamonds, a book he wrote in 2011 alleging that military generals and two mining companies were complicit in human rights abuses committed in the diamond fields of Lundas province in Angola.
He is a recipient of numerous prestigious international awards and has been recognized for his courageous journalism. He has been arrested and detained several times previously in Angola solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
“Amnesty International believes this prosecution is politically motivated and designed to silence an activist dedicated to shining the light on corruption, abuses of power and human rights violations in Angola. There must be no further attempts to stifle his work through a prison term, prohibitively large fine, the on-going threat of a suspended sentence, or the seizure of his passport which would restrict his freedom of movement,” said Deprose Muchena.
“In keeping with its emerging leadership on the continent, Angola must ensure human rights defenders are able to work in a safe and enabling environment and that they are not criminalized for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
The prosecution of Rafael Marques de Morais also contradicts international and African human rights standards to which Angola is a party, which has held that imprisonment is never an appropriate remedy for defamation.
Amnesty International has been following the trial since it began in March 2015 and will continue to do so.