Rafael Marques, a graduate of the MSc in African Studies at Oxford, is being tried in Angola for his writing and reporting. A brief history can be found in the article below. He is back in court today, Thursday 21st May. His case has attracted international attention and has been taken up by Amnesty International amongst others. They believe that international publicity showing support for Rafael will be of great value and he has also requested assistance and publicity.
Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are circulating the letter below for signatures to be sent to Darcy Milburn <email@example.com>
A social media campaign is also being developed. We do not have any direct Angolan addresses but If you are able to contribute in any way by contacting potentially influential people, spreading the article and tweeting that would be much appreciated.
William Beinart, Director of the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford.
Dear President dos Santos,
We the undersigned individuals and organizations are writing to you to express our strong concerns over the prosecution on criminal defamation charges of Rafael Marques de Morais. The case reflects a broader deterioration in the environment for freedom of expression in Angola, including the increasing use of criminal defamation lawsuits against journalists and routine police abuse of, and interference with, journalists, activists, and protestors exercising their right to freedom of expression. We urge you to take immediate steps to reverse these worrying trends.
Your government appears to be using their criminal defamation laws to deter Rafael Marques from his human rights reporting. By doing so, the government of Angola is violating Mr. Marques de Morais’ right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and his right to enjoy the protections bestowed upon him by the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
The prosecution of Mr. Marques de Morais also stands in opposition to the December 2014 judgment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which decided in the case of Lohe Issa Konaté vs. Burkina Faso that except in very serious and exceptional circumstances, “violations of laws on freedom speech and the press cannot be sanctioned by custodial sentences.”
Mr Marques de Morais has been regularly and repeatedly harassed by State authorities because of his work. The 24 criminal defamation charges lodged against Marques, for example, are only the latest attempt by Angolan officials to silence his reporting. Marques has alleged a range of high-level corruption cases and human rights violations in his blog, and pursued sensitive investigations into human rights violations in Angola’s diamond areas. Not only has the Angolan attorney-general failed to independently and properly investigate the allegations of these serious crimes, in the current trial against Mr. Marques de Morais the harms suffered by the miners and villagers are lost in the political maneuvering of the effort to silence Mr. Marques.
We strongly urge you to take immediate steps to make clear that the government of Angola respects the right of journalists, activists and others to enjoy their lawful right to freedom of expression. Furthermore we encourage you to immediately pursue efforts to abolish Angola’s criminal defamation laws, as criminal penalties are always disproportionate punishments for harming a person’s reputation and infringe on free expression. Criminal defamation laws are open to easy abuse, as the case against Marques demonstrates, resulting in disproportionately harsh consequences. As repeal of criminal defamation laws in an increasing number of countries shows, such laws are not necessary for protecting reputations.