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Defamation Charges Against Angolan Activist an Attack on Free Speech
Freedom House condemns the decision of Angolan courts and prosecutors to move forward with defamation changes against journalist and human rights advocate Rafael Marques de Morais. Their decision is a violation of the universally-recognized right to freedom of speech and a clear attempt to silence Angola’s independent civil society.
In January 2013, Marques was charged with filing a false complaint against a diamond mining company, private security company, and seven high-ranking generals, after he accused them of systematic human rights abuses in Angola’s diamond mining area, Lundas. According to Marques, the groups were responsible for frequent violent abuses against artisanal miners, including torture and murder. Marques did not receive official details of the case until January 2014, a year after the charges were filed.
During the year-long preliminary inquiry for the case, the court and prosecutors denied Marques access to the details of the defamation charges, including the names of the plaintiffs. Marques said officials refused to outline the formal charges even during formal questioning.
In 1999, Marques was jailed without charges for more than a month after publication of a magazine article in which he accused President Jose Eduardo dos Santos with promoting corruption and embezzlement. He was later formally charged in relation to the article, found guilty of defaming the president and sentenced to six months imprisonment, which was later suspended. He has continued to report on the country’s diamond mining and oil industries.
Freedom House urges Angola’s Attorney General to drop the charges against Marques, and end the use of criminal defamation laws to limit freedom of press and freedom of speech.