New York, June 23, 2017–Angolan authorities should immediately drop all charges against journalists Rafael Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras Lourenco, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Marques de Morais, who runs the anticorruption website Maka Angola, and Bras Lourenco, of the weekly newspaper O Crime, face charges of “outrage to a body of sovereignty and injury against public authority,” under Angola’s Law on Crimes against State Security, Maka Angola reported on June 21. The charge–which, according to media reports, carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison–stems from an October 2016 Maka Angola article, republished in O Crime that alleged the attorney general illegally acquired land, according to legal documents seen by CPJ.
“The Angolan attorney general’s use of state security legislation to charge journalists who published allegations of his wrongdoing is an absolute outrage, even for a government with little tolerance for dissent,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. “Rafael Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras Lourenco are not threats to Angola’s national security. The state should immediately drop all charges against them and should cease threatening them with prison for reporting on issues of public interest.”
The state filed the “outrage to a body of sovereignty” charges on May 12, 2017, on behalf of Angolan Attorney General João Maria de Sousa and Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, but Marques de Morais and Bras Lourenco learned of them only on June 20, according to media reports. This gave the accused only five days to prepare for a hearing at which a judge is expected to decide whether to bring the case to trial, Marques de Morais told CPJ.
Marques de Morais told CPJ that the “outrage to a body of sovereignty” charges were “a brush for everything when they want to hold a journalist.”
According to legal documents seen by CPJ, Attorney General João Maria de Sousa also brought criminal defamation, “injury,” and “abuse of freedom of the press” charges against Marques de Morais individually.
“The intention is to close the newspaper [O Crime],” Bras Lourenco told CPJ in an email. “They plan to demand compensation that the newspaper cannot pay, [so that] this time, it declares bankruptcy.”
Marques de Morais and Bras Lourenco were charged with insult laws and interrogated over the same article in 2016, CPJ reported at the time.
CPJ’s calls to the office of the Angolan presidency and attorney general went unanswered.