HRW: Defamation Laws Silence Journalists

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Angolan attorney-general to drop all criminal defamation charges against investigative journalist and human rights defender Rafael Marques de Morais, arguing that the charges undermine the right to freedom of expression.

In a press release  (HERE É PARA TIRAR O LINK APENAS here) issued today, August 12, HRW also urged the Angolan government to repeal the country’s criminal defamation laws, which are the basis for the charges against Mr. Marques de Morais.

According to Leslie Lefkow, HRW deputy Africa director, “Angola has found its criminal defamation laws very useful to try to squelch reports about corruption and human rights violations. Angola should be investigating these reports of serious human rights violations instead of trying to silence the bearers of bad news.”

The various legal measures taken against Mr. Marques de Morais are related to his book Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, published in Portugal in 2011. The book details cases of murder and torture against people living in the diamond-bearing Lundas region of north-eastern Angola. The most recent legal action against Mr. Marques de Morais comprises 11 criminal complaints brought by seven Angolan generals acting individually. Three corporations acting collectively, namely ?Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, ITM-Mining and the security company ?Teleservice also lodged criminal complaints. All are implicated in the alleged crimes in the Lundas, ?documented in Mr. Marques de Morais’ book.

“The cases against Marques show exactly why criminal defamation laws are a problem: they can too easily be abused and used for politically motivated purposes,” Lefkow also said. “Angola’s government doesn’t seem to have learned much from its previous misguided efforts to silence Marques.”