Reporters Without Borders welcomes the provisional release on 9 November of Felisberto da Grâça Campos, the editor of the weekly Semanario Angolense, pending the outcome of his appeal against the eight-month sentence he received on 3 October on charges of defaming, insulting and denigrating a former minister.
The judge who tried Grâça Campos originally ruled that he had to begin serving the sentence immediately, although his lawyer was appealing against the verdict.
“This wise decision shows that the Angolese judicial system has realised how unfair it is to jail this journalist,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We hope this ruling will serve as the basis for a complete overhaul of the law in order to bring it into line with democratic principles.”
11.10 - Detained newspaper editor rushed to prison hospital
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of journalist Felisberto da Grâça Campos for humanitarian reasons after he was rushed to the infirmary in São Paulo prison yesterday. The editor of the privately-owned weekly Semanario Angolense, Campos suffers from diabetes. He was sentenced last week to eight months in prison.
Campos has undergone analyses and is to be examined by a doctor today, but he needs urgent medical treatment. “I am afraid he could fall into a coma overnight,” his wife, Helena Campos, told journalists. She has not been allowed to see or speak to her husband.
5.10 - A journalist jailed for eight months for “damaging former minister’s reputation”
Reporters Without Borders today expressed shock as a criminal court in Luanda jailed journalist and editor Felisberto da Grâça Campos for eight months and fined him 250,000 dollars for allegedly insulting a former minister.
The editor of the weekly, Semanario Angolense, was accused on 3 October of “defamation, insults, denigration and damaging his rights as a prominent person” of former minister and current legal auditor, Paulo Tchipilica.
The ex-minister laid a complaint in 2004 after publication in April 2001 and March 2004 of articles relating to alleged trafficking of influence.
“The main reason for our concern is the disproportionate nature of the sentence,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “But the fact that a journalist can be sent to jail in Angola only increases our concern.”
“The country has distinguished itself in recent years by desisting from jailing journalists for press offences. This period unfortunately now seems to be over because we now have to remind the Angolan authorities that prison is absolutely not the solution in cases such as these.”
The article, headlined, “If the minister is not stopped, he will sell the entire country”, exposed a wave of restitution of houses to returning former settlers who had fled at Independence in 1975 and whose houses were then nationalised and sold.
The article expressed suspicions about the minister’s role in the case, at the same time as relaying complaints from officials that the same minister was allegedly defrauding their social fund.
“The day’s hearing is confined to pronouncing sentence, because the verdict was given on 25 September following the unjustified absence of the defendant,” the judge, Pedro Viana, explained.
The journalist’s lawyer, Paulo Rangel, lodged an appeal for the sentence to be suspended and for a re-trial. The judge allowed the right to appeal but in such a way that Grâça Campos still had to go to prison to serve his sentence, pending the hearing of the appeal.
The journalist contested this, telling the press, “I have not been allowed the right to deny the complaint nor to explain the allegation about my absence.” He added that aggravated circumstances referred to in the verdict, such as an alleged conviction in Kwanza-Norte province, were mostly false.
The editor had already caused fierce controversy in 2003 when he published a list of “Angola’s ten richest people” shaking up the political world in which several people found themselves facing accusations in connection with their fortunes.
He faced several trials, but under the then press law, the judges ruled in his favour. However the law was amended in 2006, allowing a crackdown on press offences.