The arraignment of two journalists in Angola on spurious charges is the latest assault on fundamental freedoms as the government increases restrictions on civic space ahead of crucial elections scheduled for 23 August 2017. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the government of Angola to stop the judicial persecution of journalists, and calls on international observers to ensure freedom of expression is respected in the run up to the elections.
On 20 June 2017, journalists Rafael Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras Lourenço were indicted by the Office of the Attorney General and charged with “outrage to a body sovereignty” and “insult against public authority” under the Law on Crimes Against the State and Penal Code respectively.
The charges stem from an article published by Rafael Marques on 26 October 2016 on his website Maka Angola, in which he exposed details of the dubious circumstances in which the Attorney General Joao Mana Moreira de Sousa purchased a piece of land in 2011. Mariano Bras Lourenço, Director of the O Crime newspaper, was charged after he re-published Rafael’s article. Both journalists could face up to six years in jail.
“The judicial persecution of journalists is one of several strategies used by the Angolan government to silence critical voices in the lead -up to elections next month,” says Ine Van Severen,
Policy and Research Analyst at CIVICUS. “Angola is one of the most repressive states in the Southern Africa region as the government of President José Eduardo dos Santos has shown complete disregard towards human rights norms.”
Marques has been a victim of judicial persecution in the past. In 2015, he was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence after he was found guilty of defamation for publishing a book titled Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, in 2011. In the book, he revealed details of hundreds of killings by security guards and soldiers and human rights violations in the diamond fields of the Lundas region.
The Angolan authorities continue to use violence to disperse peaceful protests. On 24 June 2017, protests led by the Movimento do Protectorado Lunda Tchokwe (MPL-T) in the provinces of Moxico, Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul, were violently repressed by security forces. One person died, at least 13 were wounded, and over 78 protesters were detained. MPL-T has been demanding for autonomy for the Lundas region. More protests are planned for 29 July 2017.
In February 2017, security forces again used brute force to disperse peaceful protests in Luanda and Benguela. Demonstrators were calling for the resignation of the Minister for Territorial Administration because of a perceived conflict of interest in his position as a candidate for the ruling party in the August elections and his responsibilities to oversee the voter registration process.
Even though President José Eduardo dos Santos has agreed to step down after 38 years in power, his government is doing everything possible to ensure that the ruling party, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), maintains its grip on power.
CIVICUS calls on the Government of Angola to stop the judicial persecution of media and respect the rights of all citizens to peacefully assemble.
Angola is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor, a global platform tracking track civic rights violations around the world.
For more information, please contact:
Ine Van Severen
Policy and Research Analyst