International signatories from the worlds of technology, journalism, publishing, theatre, film and business, including jewellers Tiffany & Co, called on Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos on Tuesday to drop the prosecution of award-winning investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais.
Marques was last week given a six-month suspended sentence following a trial in which he faced criminal defamation charges over his 2011 book on blood diamonds, which was published for the first time in English on Tuesday.
“Rafael’s trial was a sham. He was told charges would be dropped, only for him to be hit with new charges out of the blue, and he was not allowed to present his evidence or call witnesses,” said Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of freedom of expression group Index on Censorship, which organised the letter.
“Rafael is a courageous journalist, working with little support to expose corruption in Angola. This absurd trial and verdict is meant to stop him from speaking out. We want to make sure that does not happen.”
Marques was awarded an Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression award in March for his work. Signatories to the letter include jewellers Tiffany & Co.; tech entrepreneurs Martha Lane Fox, one of the judges of the awards, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales; authors Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman and Elif Shafak; actors Janet Suzman, Juliet Stevenson, and Simon Callow; playwrights Howard Brenton and Timberlake Wertenbaker; as well as Steve McQueen, director of Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave. Other signatories included journalists Sir Harold Evans and Christina Lamb; and artists and writers with direct experience of censorship, such as Syrian political cartoonist Ali Ferzat and Azerbaijani journalist Idrak Abbasov.
The letter will be delivered by Index on Censorship to the Embassy of Angola in London on Tuesday, June 2.
For more information, contact David Heinemann on 0207 260 2664 or email [email protected]
We, the undersigned, call on Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos to drop the prosecution of journalist Rafael Marques de Morais.
Marques’ vital investigations into human rights abuses should not be impeded by the threat of jail, which is set to loom over him for two years under the court’s terms.
His conviction and six-month suspended sentence are a clear violation of the rights to free expression, to a free press and to a fair trial.
Marques’ reporting is fundamental not only to Angola, but to the world at large.
We call on you to ensure standards of international law are applied during the appeal process.
Ali Ferzat, cartoonist
Angela Quintal, editor, Mail & Guardian, South Africa
Dame Ann Leslie, journalist
Anthony Barling, lawyer
Art Kaufman, World Movement for Democracy
Bob Fu, founder and president, ChinaAid
Brilliant Earth Jewellery
Carl Gershman, president, National Endowment for Democracy
Chantal Uwimana, Transparency International
Chie Murakami, director general, Diamonds for Peace, Japan
Christopher Hird, film producer
Christophe Deloire, secretary-general, Reporters Without Borders
Christina Lamb OBE, journalist
David Aaronovitch, columnist
David Harewood MBE, actor
David McCune, publisher
David Schlesinger, founder, Tripod Advisors
Dreda Say Mitchell, author
Edward Fitzgerald CBE QC, lawyer
Elaine Potter, journalist
Elif Shafak, author
Geoffrey Hosking OBE, historian
Grigory Pasko, journalist
Sir Harold Evans, journalist
Howard Brenton, playwright
Idrak Abbasov, journalist
Janet Suzman, actor and director
Jesper Højberg, executive director, International Media Support
Jeffrey Smith, Robert F Kennedy Centre for Justice & Human Rights
Jimmy Wales, founder, Wikipedia
Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive, Index on Censorship
John Witherow, editor, The Times, UK
Juliet Stevenson, actor
Kamila Shamsie, author
Kostas Vaxevanis, journalist
Lara Pawson, author of In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgotten Massacre
Larry Kilman, secretary-general, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Leber Jeweler Inc
Lee Hirsch, film director
Lindsey Hilsum, journalist
Louise Redvers, journalist
Mariane Pearl, journalist
Mark Stephens CBE, senior member, Howard Kennedy LLP
Martha Lane Fox CBE, House of Lords
Mary Lawlor, executive director, Front Line Defenders
Maya Wolfe-Robinson, journalist
Matthew d’Ancona, journalist
Matthew Parris, journalist
Mohamed Al-Dharadji, film director
Neil Gaiman, author
Paul Webster, film producer
Peter Oborne, journalist
Peter Kellner, president, YouGov
Peter Pomerantsev, author
Peter Tatchell, director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Philip Pullman, author
Rahim Haciyev, editor, Azadliq, Azerbaijan
Richard Sambrook, director, Centre for Journalism, Cardiff University
Ronald Deibert, academic
Robert McCrum, writer and editor
Sanar Yurdatapan, Initiative for Freedom of Expression, Turkey
Shubhranshu Choudhary, journalist
Simon Callow CBE, actor
Steve McQueen CBE, film director
Sue Woodford-Hollick OBE, businesswoman
Sue Valentine, Committee to Protect Journalists Africa Programme
Suzanne Nossel, executive director, PEN American Centre
Stephen Hull, editor-in-chief, Huffington Post UK
Thomas Hughes, executive director, Article 19
Tiffany & Co.
Timberlake Wertenbaker, playwright
Turi Munthe, founder, Demotix
Yoav Shamir, filmmaker
Ziyad Marar, publisher