Lobby group wants charges against Angola journalists dropped

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Angolan authorities to immediately drop all charges against journalists Rafael Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras Lourenco.

Mr Morais runs the anti-corruption website Maka Angola, while Mr Lourenco works for the weekly newspaper O Crime.

They face charges of "outrage to a body of sovereignty and injury against public authority," under Law on Crimes against State Security, according to the Maka Angola.

The charges--which, according to media reports, carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison--stem from an October 2016 Maka Angola article, republished in O Crime, that alleged that the attorney-general acquired land illegally.

His wrongdoing

"The Angolan attorney-general's use of state security legislation to charge journalists who published allegations of his wrongdoing is an absolute abuse of power, even for a government with little tolerance for dissent," CPJ quoted its Africa Programme Coordinator Angela Quintal as saying.

"Mr Rafael Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras Lourenco are not a threat to Angola's national security,” Ms Quintal was quoted saying.

The state filed the charges on May 12, on behalf of the Attorney-General, Mr João Maria de Sousa, and President José Eduardo dos Santos, but the accused only learnt of them on June 20, CPJ quoted media reports.

CPJ quoted Mr Morais saying the schedule gave them only five days to prepare for a hearing.

Conflict diamonds

The media lobby group said calls to the Office of the President and the attorney-general went unanswered.

The Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Director for Africa, Mr Dave Peterson, on Friday expressed concern about the charge against the journalists, adding that the group was closely monitoring the scenario.

Mr Morais, 46, is a winner of the the NED Democracy Award 2017.

The Angolan rights activist has also received several international awards for his reporting on conflict diamonds and government corruption. He started work as a journalist in 1992 at the state-owned newspaper Jornal de Angola.

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