(MISA/IFEX) - Journalist Rafael Marques, who was arrested at his home on 16
October 1999, remains in incommunicado detention in Luanda. Neither his
lawyer or relatives have been allowed access to him since his detention and
it is believed that he is on hunger strike.
**Updates IFEX alerts of 20 October, 19 October and 18 October 1999**
Marques' lawyer, Luis Nascimento, has pointed out at least two procedural
irregularities in the continued detention of Marques. The first is that no
one is being allowed access to him, and the second is that the attorney
general (a.g.) has refused to attend to an application for bail, which was
prepared on 18 October, apparently because the a.g. is "attending a
conference". Marques' lawyer is currently considering applying for a writ of
harbeus corpus to both secure his release and address the procedural
irregularities surrounding his continued detention.
According to Angolan law, Marques can be detained for up to fifteen days
without being brought to trial.
Marques, who is also the coordinator of the Angolan office of the Open
Society Initiative in Southern Africa, was charged on October 14 with
defaming President dos Santos, for having referred to him as a dictator in a
3 July article published in "Agora". The article entitled, "The Big Stick of
Dictatorship", said that dos Santos was "responsible for the destruction of
the country and the promotion of corruption".
Marques has apparently been charged under Angola's notorious Law 7/78, also
known as the Law on Crimes Against State Security. Law 7/78 violates Article
35 of the 1992 Angolan Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom
of expression. However, the absence of a functioning constitutional court in
Angola means that Law 7/78 cannot be challenged at this time. The charge
against Marques carries a two to eight year prison sentence.
In an address by Angolan lawyer Maria Pereira to a Media Lawyers Conference
in Windhoek in August this year, Pereira pointed out that in terms of the
press law, defamation of the president was a criminal offence. The law
further gave no or very weak options of defence for a journalist accused of
defaming the president. According to Pereira, "Once the president claims
defamation, it is accepted that the facts have been proven." As a result,
the only type of defence a journalist can put forward when faced with this
charge, is to prove that s/he was not the author of the article. This
situation exists only in the case of a claim of defamation against the
president of the republic, a foreign head of state or a representative of a
foreign head of state.
Send appeals to the president:
immediate release either unconditionally or on bail
noting that a detainee should have a right of access to his family and
lawyer and a right to bail
complied with and that the rights of the detainee are upheld with respect to
an integral part of democracy is that those who hold office in government
and who are responsible for public administration must always be open to
to counter alleged defamation such as media retraction, media statements,
and other options involving the right of reply
amounts to political censorship in that it seeks to punish him for
expressing his views about the government and the president in particular
international treaties and obligations which guarantee the right to freedom
of expression, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, to which Angola is a signatory
immediately withdraw the charges against Marques
Hon Jose Eduardo dos Santos
President of the People's Republic of Angola
Gabinete da Presidencia da Republica
Fax: +244 2 392 733 / 391 476 / 331 898
Please copy appeals to the source if possible.