Angola: Authorities Charge Journalist With Criminal Defamation Over Corruption Report

New York — Prosecutors should drop the criminal defamation, insult, and forgery charges against Angolan journalist Liberato Furtado Pereira and stop retaliating against the journalist for his public interest reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

Furtado, a reporter for privately owned Radio Luanda, is expected to appear before the district court in Luanda, the capital, on Thursday, September 21, to face charges of criminal defamation, insult, and forgery.

The charges follow an October 28, 2020, complaint by prosecutor Elizete Francisco in connection with a November 2020 report alleging that Francisco used her personal account to collect the equivalent of more than US$25,000 in payments due to the general prosecutor's office, according to Furtado and the report, which CPJ reviewed. Francisco filed the complaint one day after Furtado sought her comment on the allegations.

If convicted of criminal defamation, Furtado faces up to 1.5 years in prison, according to the penal code. Insult carries a sentence of up to one year, and forgery carries a sentence of up to three years. All three charges may also carry a variable fine at the judge's discretion.

"Prosecutors should drop the criminal charges against Liberato Furtado before the matter goes to trial on Thursday and not waste the court's time and resources in this attempt to criminalize journalism," said Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa program coordinator, in Durban, South Africa. "Instead of targeting the media, Angola should repeal its criminal defamation and insult laws that are relics of the country's colonial past and used as blunt censorship tools against journalists."

Furtado was formally accused of criminal defamation, insult, and forgery on April 21, 2021.

According to a March 9, 2022, affidavit by the police's Criminal Investigation Service reviewed by CPJ, the bank authenticated the bank receipt Furtado used as the basis of his reporting after initially stating it was fake.

After the bank teller who issued the receipt gave a witness statement to the service, the bank changed its stance and said the receipt was authentic and that Francisco's name appearing on the account that had received the funds was due to a system error.

"The accusations against me should have fallen when it was proved the bank receipt was authentic, but instead, more than a year later, I am still being dragged to court accused of the same crimes," Furtado told CPJ.

CPJ's calls, emails, and messages to Francisco and Alvaro João, spokesperson of the general prosecutor's office, did not receive a response.

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