Journalist Rafael Marques forbidden to leave Angola
(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Minister of Justice Paolo Tjipilica, RSF asked him to intervene with the authorities concerned so that Rafael Marques, an independent journalist, be authorised to travel abroad where he is to receive a prize awarded by a professional journalists organization. After noting that this is the third time the journalist has seen his right to leave Angola refused, Robert Ménard, the organisation's secretary general, "expressed concern over the harassment of Rafael Marques", and expressed surprise that Marques does not benefit from the same treatment as three other journalists who are also being prosecuted and who were recently able to travel abroad. Finally, RSF pointed out to the minister that Marques is still waiting for the verdict on his appeal, while Angolan law stipulates that no more than forty-five days should pass between the registration of an appeal and the second verdict.
According to information obtained by RSF, on 8 August 2000, Marques was refused the right to leave Angola to travel to the United States, where he was to receive the Percy Qoboza prize, awarded by the Association of Black American Journalists. The judicial authorities prohibited him from leaving the country, on the pretext that he presented an appeal following his conviction, on 31 March, by the high court of Luanda, to a six-month suspended sentence in prison and to a fine of 100,000 Kwanzas (US$8,665, 9,500 Euros) for "defamation" of the head of state, José Eduardo dos Santos. According to the authorities, the journalist cannot leave Angola before the Supreme Court has pronounced its ruling.
Marques was sentenced for publishing an article entitled "The lipstick of the dictatorship" on 3 July in the private weekly "Agora", in which he accused the head of state of being one of those responsible for the destruction of the country and for the corruption that reigns in Angola. Prosecuted for "abuse and defamation of the president of the republic and the public prosecutor of the republic", Marques was detained from 16 October to 25 November 1999. Having been released on parole while awaiting his trial, the journalist was not able to write in the press, make public declarations, nor leave the Angolan capital. On 19 January 2000, the journalist was threatened by Mendes de Carvalho, a member of parliament from the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA, ruling party). de Carvalho warned him that "he would not reach the age of forty" if he continued to criticise the president in his articles. One month after these threats, Marques was prevented from travelling to Washington. On 19 June, Marques was again forbidden from leaving Angolan territory, while he hoped to attend an international conference in South Africa.
RSF explained that three journalists currently being prosecuted by the courts, William Tonet, managing editor of "Folha 8", Gustavo Costa, correspondent for the Portuguese weekly "Expresso" and Aguiar Dos Santos, director of the weekly "Agora", were recently able to leave Angolan territory.