On May 12, #Angola charged two journalists, #Rafael Marques de Morais, the editor of Maka Angola, described as an "anticorruption" website, and #Mariano Bras Lourenco, with O Crime, with crimes against the state under Angola's Law on Crimes against State Security, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists. However, the two did not learn of the charges until June 20, giving them just five days to ready a defense and appear before a hearing, where a judge will decide whether the cases merit trials.

Said to amount to an "outrage to a body of sovereignty and injury against public authority," if convicted, each man faces up to six years in prison.

Advertisements
Advertisements

All Africa describes Rafael Marques de Morais as an "award-winning investigative journalist" and states that the allegations of crimes against the government stem from an article published in Maka Angola in October 2016 that alleged "illegality by the attorney general to act as a property and real estate developer in addition to his legal duties."

Arrests linked to upcoming elections

Another piece with All Africa drew attention to Angola's upcoming elections, slated for August, the timing of Rafael Marques de Morais' arrest, and a proposition that "the outgoing President and Vice-President be given absolute immunity from prosecution for any crimes they committed while in office." In addition to the "outrage" and "injury" charge, Angola's Attorney General João Maria de Sousa also charged Rafael Marques de Morais with "abuse of freedom of the press," and "criminal defamation." All Africa offered the opinion that the move only serves to "highlight" the "misdeeds" of the AG.

Advertisements

"In a country where extra-judicial executions have been common, state powers evidently feel constrained from actually shooting those, like Mr. Marques de Morais, who expose dirty laundry. Instead, they harass, prosecute, jail and otherwise do all they can to disrupt their work," All Africa writes. Mariano Bras Lourenco told the Committee to Protect Journalists that the goal of the charges was to "demand compensation that the newspaper cannot pay," forcing it into bankruptcy.

'Little tolerance for dissent'

Angela Quintal, the Committee to Protect Journalists Africa program coordinator, called the charges an "outrage," even for Angola, which has a well-known reputation for having "little tolerance for dissent." The coordinator stated that the journalists were no threat, and called on the Angolan government to drop the charges and stop harassing those writing about matters of "public interest."

Human Rights Watch's 2017 World Report states that Angola's state-run media is "highly biased" toward the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola party, but that "social media, blogs, and privately owned news websites," were allowed to operate without interference.

Advertisements

An Angolan journalists' union called a new law, introduced in November 2016, "a political tool to intimidate the press." The law calls for a newly formed group to control all media in the nation of 25 million people.