Carlos Alberto, editor of Portal A Denúncia was arrested on September 29, 2023, in order to serve a three-year jail term for failing to comply with a 2022 Supreme Court order to publicly apologize to a government official. This was in relation to his 2021 conviction for criminal defamation for his reporting on allegations of corruption by Angola’s then-deputy attorney general. As of late 2023, Alberto had published multiple apologies as required by the court and promised to pay the fine and was waiting for the Supreme Court to hear his petition for release.
Alberto is the editor and a reporter on current affairs and corruption for the investigative website Portal A Denúncia, which had more than 6,000 YouTube subscribers and some 5,400 Facebook followers as of late 2023. He also comments on politics on his personal social media accounts.
On September 29, Alberto was arrested by 15 armed police officers at his home in the capital, Luanda, according to Almeida Lucas, who was Alberto’s lawyer until late 2023.
On October 2, the Luanda district court told Alberto that he had been arrested for failing to comply with an earlier court ruling. This related to his conviction on September 13, 2021, for criminal defamation, injurious defamation, and violating press freedom for his reports that the then-deputy attorney general Luis Liz illegally appropriated land for a shopping mall.
At that time, Alberto was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 110 million kwanzas ($176,000) to Liz and two others that Alberto alleged were involved in the corrupt deal, according to media reports and Alberto, who spoke to CPJ at the time.
The court said Alberto could remain free if he apologized to the three offended parties within 20 days, those sources said. Alberto was ordered to re-publish the apology every five days for 45 days, according to the ruling, reviewed by CPJ, and Rádio Nacional de Angola.
Alberto told CPJ at the time that he would not apologize and he filed an appeal.
On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court dismissed Alberto’s appeal and increased his suspended sentence from two to three years in prison, plus a fine of 3,500 million kwanzas (US$4,240) but said that the sentence would be waived if he apologized within 20 days and re-published the statement every 10 days for 60 days, according to Lucas and CPJ’s review of the ruling.
From April 25, 2023 onwards, Alberto published seven apologies on Facebook, in which he compared his situation to the biblical story of the fight between David and the giant Goliath.
On September 14, 2023, Judge Josina Falcão of Luanda District Court issued an arrest warrant, reviewed by CPJ, for failure to comply with the court order, RFI reported.
Two days before his arrest on September 29, Alberto told CPJ that the warrant had been circulated on social media before authorities officially notified him or his lawyer, adding that he had written to the court earlier in the month to ask about paying his fine in instalments but had received no response. According to Article 53 of Angola’s penal code, an arrest should be the last resort.
On October 2, Lucas asked the court to release his client, given that the journalist had apologized and volunteered to pay the fine, but the court said Alberto’s apologies showed defiance of the ruling, the lawyer told CPJ.
On October 10, A Denúncia posted an article saying that Alberto retracted his 2021 corruption report.
Liz’s lawyer signed an agreement on October 11, reviewed by CPJ, which said “the offended saw no inconvenience on (Alberto’s) release from prison” if he continued to apologize sincerely after being released.
On October 16, Falcão signed an order, reviewed by CPJ, for Alberto to be released, having accepted his attorney’s submission that the journalist would pay the fine and a letter from Liz’s lawyer, also reviewed by CPJ, confirming that Liz had accepted Alberto’s apology.
A day later, Falcão reversed her order, saying she did not have the jurisdiction to free Alberto and referred the case to the Supreme Court, according to court documents reviewed by CPJ and Lucas.
On October 23, Lucas applied to the Supreme Court for Alberto’s release, the lawyer told CPJ. As of late 2023, a court date had not been set and Alberto remained in prison in Viana, a suburb east of Luanda.
Liz told CPJ that he took no pleasure in having a journalist imprisoned but that Alberto had damaged his reputation.
A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office declined to comment as the case was in court.