afrol News, 24 January - Angolan journalist Rafael Marques has been instructed by the Provincial Court of Luanda to pay compensation of 30,000 kwanza (about US$ 950) to President Eduardo dos Santos, after the court found him guilty of defaming, slandering and injuring the President.
The charge relates to an article by Marques, published in the "Agora" on July 3, 1999, in which he referred to Dos Santos as a dictator. The article entitled, "The Lipstick of Dictatorship", said that Dos Santos was "responsible for the destruction of the country and the promotion of corruption".
The court further instructed him to pay all legal costs pertaining to the suit, as well as those incurred by another colleague charged with the same offence. "I'm the only one who appeared in court. I've been instructed to pay everything within five days and afterwards claim it from the other accused", Marques told the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).
According to Marques he was not notified of the outcome of an appeal he had made to the Supreme Court on the matter. He in fact heard about the final ruling on the radio.
Marques says that the courts continue to employ numerous outdated laws to curtail media freedom and independent reporting. "I've been charged under three sets of laws: laws from the old Portuguese colonial regime, communist and democratic laws. In Angola we cannot speak of the independence of the judiciary. In this case the decision rests squarely with the President", he told MISA.
Marques' lawyer has presented the option of him arguing "improper procedures" as Marques was not informed of the ruling according in line with normal legal practice. He hopes to have the sentence declared void.
- In any case, says Marques, "I cannot be asked to pay for something I've not been informed of. It is my right to be duly informed by the courts."
For the first ten days of his detention, Marques was held incommunicado, and neither his lawyer nor relatives were allowed access to him.
Marques' lawyer at the time, Luis Nascimento, pointed out that there were at least two procedural irregularities in the continued detention of Marques. The first was that no-one was being allowed access to him, and the second was that the Attorney General had refused to attend to an application for bail, several days after it had been prepared, apparently because the AG was "attending a conference". On October 26, the AG officially refused a bail application by Marques.
Marques was apparently 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.
Read Marques' article "The Lipstick of
Source: Based on Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)