CPJ: Angola Should Drop Charges Against Anti-Corruption Journalists
Angolan authorities should drop criminal defamation charges against anti-corruption journalists Coque Mukuta and Escrivão José and stop trying to silence those who are exposing corruption, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement on Thursday.
In late June, judicial authorities charged Mukuta – editor of privately-owned news website ‘O Decreto’, and José – editor of privately-owned newspaper ‘Hora H’ – with criminal defamation after ruling party officials filed complaints about their reporting, the journalists told CPJ.
The charge of criminal defamation carries a sentence of up to 18 months in prison or a fine at the discretion of the judge, according to the Angolan penal code.
Mukuta said he believes he was charged with defamation was after the deputy governor of the country’s Cuanza-Norte province, Leonor Garibaldi, filed a complaint against him over an article he wrote last year criticizing Angolan President João Lourenço for alleged inaction on corruption in the province.
Garibaldi later said in a phone call with CPJ she felt she was falsely accused of corruption in the story and that Mukuta did not ask her for comment. Mukuta, however, told the Committee that he had.
José, for his part, told CPJ prosecutors charged him after Cuanza-Norte Governor Adriano de Carvalho filed a complaint against him for republishing an article about the alleged beating and torturing of a man who had criticized the government on social media.
“The latest criminal defamation investigations into journalists in Angola demonstrate a renewed push by politicians to silence those in the media who are exposing corruption ahead of next year’s election,” Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, said in a statement.
“The criminal defamation charges against Coque Mukuta, Escrivão José, and other journalists must be dropped immediately, and prosecutors should guard against the criminal justice system being abused for political ends.”
CPJ has documented at least six other similar cases against journalists in Angola since March.
According to Angola’s state news agency, the southern Africa country’s national election is scheduled to be held next year.
In addition to the criminal defamation charges, both Mukuta and José said they were placed under “term of identity and residence” orders that prevent them from traveling outside of Luanda, the country’s capital, for an unspecified amount of time.
Mukuta’s order also includes a provision that prevents him from leaving his house for more than five days without notifying authorities, he said.
José added that he has been investigated for 12 other criminal defamation charges since 2011.
“With so many crimes to investigate in Angola, authorities chase journalists, and the intimidation is only going to get worse until elections as politicians in government scramble to keep a good image,” he told CPJ.