Charges against Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais must be dropped


Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais received a Freedom of Expression Journalism Award in 2015.

Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais received a Freedom of Expression Journalism Award in 2015. (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

The Angolan government should immediately drop all charges against journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais, winner of Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Award and Fellowship in 2015.

As the publisher of website Maka Angola, Marques is charged with “outrage to a body of sovereignty” and “insult against public authority”. As a private citizen, he is charged with abuse of press freedom, injury, and defamation. The indictment followed the publication of an article by Marques, in which he documented an illegal real estate transaction made in 2011 by Angola’s Attorney General, João Maria Moreira de Sousa.

Maka Angola is a website “dedicated to the struggle against corruption and to the defense of democracy in Angola”. As its director, Marques has been a prominent critic of corruption and abuses of power.

David Heinemann, Index on Censorship’s head of fellowship said: “It is no coincidence that these charges come just two months before elections in Angola. Fearless in his reporting, Marques de Morais has been a beacon for free expression in the region and an exemplar internationally. These charges are clear retaliation for his reporting and an attempt to silence the work of someone who would elsewhere be considered a national treasure.”

Marques has previously faced criminal charges for libel regarding his 2011 book Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola, which exposed human rights abuses. Index condemned the move to convict him in 2015.

Other international organisations including CPJ and Human Rights Foundation have spoken out against the charges Marques faces, which carry a potential sentence of six years in prison.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1498559133604-39ac5146-3bef-7″ taxonomies=”6964, 6938″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Angolan regime is afraid of books

Four of the Angolan activists in detention earlier this week. Photograph: Ekuva Estrela

Four of the Angolan activists in detention earlier this week. Photograph: Ekuva Estrela


How is it possible that people who cannot manage even the most basic protest, without being violently clamped down and detained, could have the means to organise a coup d’état? This is a pertinent question sent in by a reader of my website, Maka Angola, following the detention of 15 activists in Angola in late June.

The young people had formed a study group. They armed themselves with books on peaceful forms of protest in order better to defend their ideas. This posed an even greater threat to those in power who, according to various analysts, are more afraid of freedom of thought than of guns.

On Wednesday 24 June, the attorney general, Army General João Maria de Sousa, confirmed the detention of 15 youths for allegedly preparing acts of collective disobedience to overthrow the government, and unseat President Dos Santos. “These acts constitute crimes against the security of the state, as a crime of rebellion. As such, the competent bodies of the state must take action to avert the worst,” General João Maria de Sousa told the press.

The group were reading the famous book by US academic Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. The book’s blurb describes it as “a blueprint for nonviolent resistance to repressive regimes.”  The youth were reportedly brainstorming peaceful strategies to protest against the rule of Dos Santos.

Maka Angola has decided to find out about these 15 people jailed as “coup plotters”, and has compiled profiles of each one on the site. An extract follows here.

Inocêncio António de Brito “Drux”
Age: 28 years
Occupation: Student and head of Scout group at a Catholic church 
“My son only knows how to manipulate a pen, he does not know how to handle a gun. Will he be able to make a coup with a pen?” wonders Marta Mulay, the mother of Inocêncio de Brito.

She says the arrest of her son “is an injustice. He is innocent of everything that he is accused of. Inocêncio disagrees with the president’s governance. He just simply wants to help to open the minds of the people because the country is in bad shape. As a family, we demand his immediate release”.

In turn, his sister, Marcelina de Brito, told us how he was taken back to his home after being arrested at the meeting. She says the police shoved a black bag over his head so that he could not see where he was being taken. She confirmed that the police seized his computer, telephone and all his books and university notebooks.

Mbanza Hamza
Age: 30

Occupation: Primary school teacher

Since 2011, Mbanza Hamza has been one of the main victims of the brutality inflicted by the police and security forces on the youth movement that has protested against the regime of President dos Santos. In 2012, MPLA-controlled militias broke his skull and collarbone during a raid on a house where youths were meeting to plan a demonstration.

Mbanza lives with his two children in his mother’s house. His mother, Leonor Odete João, has no fear about expressing her disgust at her son’s detention. “My son’s strength is his conscience. The books he reads are what’s scaring the president …The danger here is studying, it’s what my son is learning. He has freedom of conscience and freedom of choice.”

She added: “Since my son was arrested I haven’t been eating, just weeping.”

She condemns the way in which police from the Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) arrived at her house without a warrant for the searches and arrests they carried out. “They took my computer, they took my phone and my younger son’s. They even took my women’s magazines and newspapers that I have kept. They took all the papers they could find.”

José Gomes Hata “Cheik Hata”
Age: 29 years
Occupation: Hip-hop artist
Cheik Hata is one of the promoters, with Hitler Samusuku, of the hip-hop group Third Division. His lyrics are considered to be revolutionary. The verses are about rebellion – rebellion of the youngsters who feel robbed, oppressed and betrayed – and they speak about the reality of life in Angola, bluntly and without any fear.

“Wake up, let’s do it/Negative thoughts, devilish acts/results in violations, corruption and murder/in general, men possessed without mercy/More percentage to Zé (…)/”, sings the rapper in the music track “Half man, half animal”, from the record Project Does Not Vote.

Domingos da Cruz
Age: 31 years
Occupation: Professor at the Independent University of Angola

Because of his intellectual role and as the main speaker during debates of new forms of peaceful activism, the authorities consider Domingos da Cruz as one of the “ringleaders” of the alleged coup-plotting. He is the author of the book Tools to Destruct the Dictator and Prevent New Dictatorship: Political Philosophy to the Liberation of Angola. The work has been used as a manual in the young people’s meetings and may be considered an adaptation of the activist model propagated by the US academic Gene Sharp, in his book From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. This book has been internationally used as an instruction manual for non-violent strategies against dictatorships.

However, the contents of Domingos da Cruz book is not as bombastic as the title suggests. In general, the 184-page work defends non-violent struggle, including civil disobedience, as the best way for Angolans to achieve their freedom and implement true democracy. The author is against the use of violence and insists on safeguarding human lives. On the possibility of a coup, for example, to overthrow the dictatorship, for example, Da Cruz argues that coups represent a setback in the process of change and tend to give rise to a new dictatorship. He does not promote the idea of change based on external support. He is against it.

To pursue Da Cruz, the judicial bodies are clinging to the title of his works.

According to his sister, four police agents, last Sunday 21 June 2015 ransacked Da Cruz’s house, “including the bathroom and water buckets”.  They took everything that was written on paper.

The other detainees include: Hitler Jessia Chiconda “Samusuku”, a student and hip-hop artist; Osvaldo Caholo, a lieutenant in the National Air Force and assistant teacher of African history; Nelson Dibango, a computer technician; Albano Evaristo Bingobingo “Albano Liberdade”, a driver; Arante Kivuvu, a  student; Manuel Baptista Chivonde Nito Alves, a student; Luaty “Ikonoklasta” Beirão, a rapper; Sedrick de Carvalho, journalist; Fernando Tomás “Nicola Radical”, technician;  Nuno Álvaro Dala, university lecturer; and Benedito Jeremias, a student.

You can read their full profiles on Maka Angola.
Rafael Marques de Marques is a 2015 winner of the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for his investigative reporting. He is currently appealing a six-month suspended sentence received following a defamation case over his book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola.

Above: Music by Angolan rapper Luaty “Ikonoklasta” Beirão, one of the detainees

Philip Pullman, Jimmy Wales, and Steve McQueen join call for Angola to drop charges against investigative journalist

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

Angola: Index award winner slammed with new defamation charges

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)

Just days after being named the joint winner of the journalism award at the 15th Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards, Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais appeared in court for exposing corruption and human rights abuses.

Marques was confronted with up to 15 additional charges when he arrived in court on 24 March. The case was later adjourned until 23 April.

He also tweeted that a number of protesters outside the courthouse had been arrested.

Marques’ leading investigative work into corruption and human rights abuses at Angola’s diamond companies was distilled into his 2011 book Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola. He recounted 500 cases of torture and 100 murders of villagers living near diamond mines, carried out by private security companies and military officials.

Marques declared the bosses of these groups morally responsible for the atrocities committed under them, and filed charges of crimes against humanity against seven Angolan generals. After his case was dropped by the prosecution, the generals launched a series of retaliation lawsuits in Angola and Portugal, charging Marques with criminal libel.

The suit demands a total of £800,ooo from Marques. He could face up to nine years in prison.

Index on Censorship calls for Angolan authorities to drop all charges against Rafael Marques de Morais and respect press freedom.

Index Awards 2015

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Drawing pressure: Cartoonists react to threats to free speech

This article was posted on 23 March 2015 at