Contributed by Amnesty USA’s Angola Country Specialist Paula Paixao.
Amnesty is urging the Angolan government drop all charges against journalist Rafael Marques de Morais. Rafael’s work is seen as a potential threat to the security of the regime. Read below to see how you raise your voice with us by joining our Twitter storm. But first, here’s why you should:
- Journalism is not a crime. Rafael, an internationally renowned and prize winning investigative journalist and human rights defender, wrote a book in 2011 alleging military generals and private security companies were complicit in human rights abuses in diamond fields in Angola. Rafael then filed a lawsuit in Angola trying to bring the generals to account for their actions, but the Angolan court dismissed the case. Those generals are now taking Rafael to trial because he spoke out, where he can face 15 years in prison and a $1.2 million dollar fine.
- Double jeopardy may apply. The generals first tried to sue Rafael in Portugal where the book was published. The Portuguese court found the case had no merit. When Rafael went to court last month for the initial start of his trial, he found out the government was introducing 15 new charges based on the book, previously raised in Portugal. Under Angolan and Portuguese law, these new charges may not be valid. His trial resumes April 23rd.
- The prosecution violates Angolan and international law. The UN Human Rights Committee, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights have all stated defamation laws that carry a criminal penalty should be revised and that prison is never an appropriate penalty for such offenses. These laws infringe on the rights to freedom of speech and expression protected in the African Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as other regional and international instruments. Further, Article 40 of the Angolan constitution also protects freedom of expression. The law under which Rafael is being tried directly contradicts all these rights’ guaranteeing documents to which Angola is a signatory.
- Angola is silencing independent media. Amnesty has worked on behalf of other journalists in Angola tried and convicted under these same laws for exposing corruption, human rights abuses, and even for satirical cartoons of government officials. Rafael himself was tried over 10 years ago under similar charges and found guilty. He served time in prison before being released on appeal and eventually was exonerated by taking his case before the UN Human Rights Commission. The use of this harsh criminal defamation law serves to deter a vibrant and independent media.
We want you to virtually rally with us! First, call the Angolan embassy at 1.202.785.1156 asking for all charges against Rafael be dropped. Second, join us on Twitter to get Rafael trending. Either join our Thunderclap or please tweet all of the following on Tuesday, April 28th:
#RafaelMarques could go to jail JUST for writing a book. Free expression is a human right! Tell #Angola to drop charges NOW at 202-785-1156!
#freedomofspeech a fundamental right. Call 202-785-1156 & tell #Angola they MUST drop charges against #RafaelMarques!
#RafaelMarques is on trial for a book on diamond corruption. In #Angola free speech MUST be worth more than diamonds! http://owl.li/M17e2