Angola: Rafael Marques Receives the Press Freedom Award


(Acceptance speech for the International Press Institute's World Press Freedom Hero Award received on June 22 in Abuja, Nigeria.)

When the news of this award reached Angola, many of my countrymen and women posted images of me as Wakanda's Black Panther on their social media. This award is not for me. It mirrors the hopes of many Angolans that changes will not come simply from political decision-making, but from a growing awareness amongst and stand from civil society.

Looting of the state, human rights abuses, corruption and political contempt for the suffering of the people are the main ills of the Angolan society where the powerful take away what rightfully belongs to everyone and trample on others' lives.

The investigative journalism I've engaged in through Maka Angola

in a hostile environment has spearheaded the renewal of hopes that among ordinary Angolans a force for good can be reckoned with. To be an independent journalist in Angola is to fight for the very space and for the right to work as one. And, it makes one an activist too.

It is for these hopeful Angolans, and with a greater sense of responsibility, but without the Black Panther's suit, that I humbly accept this award.

I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the National Endowment for Democracy that, for the past six years, has provided me with the core support to continue my work with my head above water. I also take this opportunity to thank the staff, friends, and sources who have been extremely supportive of Maka Angola. Many have rallied behind me anew as I am currently expecting a verdict on July 6, after another trial for exposing the corrupt.

Angola is a country where the most corrupt people do not have to face trial; and, they are starting to take pride in merely being charged with corruption. We call them "os arguidos".

My teenaged son wants to study business so he can have the resources to support my independence and empower me to escalate the fight for freedom of the press and expression, good governance and human rights. He has a holistic approach.

I hope by the time he succeeds there will be a new Angola for him to contribute to in which its development and freedom of the press and of expression will be taken for granted.

My trial and tribulations have prevented me from being here with you today. My Kenyan brother, John Githongo, who has been an inspiration to me as an anti-corruption campaigner, honors me by receiving this award in my stead. As pan-Africanists, we are stronger as we stand in solidarity.

I'm most grateful to the International Press Institute for this gift of hope that many Angolans are celebrating as their own triumph over the entrenched power of its [country's] bandits.

Thank you!

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