Philip Pullman, Jimmy Wales, and Steve McQueen join call for Angola to drop charges against investigative journalist
Rafael Marques de Morais was last week given a suspended sentence following a criminal defamation trial related to his 2011 book on blood diamonds, published for the first time in English on June 2
02 Jun 15
Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

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].

The letter

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.

Yours faithfully,


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

By Jodie Ginsberg

Chief Executive of Index on Censorship Jodie Ginsberg joined Index on Censorship from the think-tank, Demos. A former London Bureau Chief for Reuters, Jodie worked for more than a decade as a foreign correspondent and business journalist. She was previously Head of Communications for Camfed, a non-profit organisation working in girls’ education. Contact: [email protected]