New York, December 29, 2016–Angolan authorities should immediately drop charges against two journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Rafael Marques de Morais, who runs the anti-corruption website Maka Angola, and Mariano Bras, of the weekly, O Crime, were charged with “crimen injuria,” which is similar to insult laws, the journalists told CPJ.
Marques de Morais told CPJ a prosecutor questioned him for three hours on December 27 before charging him with crimen injuria over an article he wrote and published on Maka Angola in October. The article alleged wrongdoing by Angola’s attorney general, João Maria de Sousa, in his purchase of state-owned land.
Bras, who republished the article in his paper, told CPJ he was questioned for three hours the following day, before being charged with the same crime. Bras said he was questioned about the veracity of the report in his paper and for details about who owned the publication.
Marques de Morais said a court date has not been set for his case. If convicted, the journalists could be jailed for six months and fined.
“Angola’s prosecution service should drop all charges against Rafael Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras,” said CPJ’s Africa program coordinator Angela Quintal. “Angola should immediately stop persecuting these journalists simply for doing their jobs by reporting on allegations of official corruption.”
Marques de Morais told CPJ that before publishing the article he sent the attorney general several questions, but did not receive a reply. He said he had written previously about de Sousa’s allegedly corrupt business activities.
CPJ attempted to contact the office of the attorney general for comment but its calls went unanswered.
Marques de Morais has long been the subject of state harassment by Angolan authorities, CPJ has found. He was given a suspended six-month prison sentence last year for defaming Angolan generals in his book Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola that documented allegations of torture and murder in diamond fields, according to reports. In 1999 he was imprisoned for 43 days without charge after referring to President Jose Eduardo dos Santos as a dictator, The Guardian reported.
Bras has been under investigation since June 2015 for alleged abuse of press freedom, defamation, and insult of public authorities, following a complaint by Angola’s army chief and the minister of interior, according to rights group, Front Line Defenders.