Angolan journalist denied right to travel to IFEX AGM

Thursday, June 8, 2000

Honourable President of the Supreme Court
Dr. Andró Cristiano
Rua 17 de Setembro
Luanda, Angola
Fax: +244 2 33 54 11

Your Honour,

As Executive Director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), which operates the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) Clearing House on behalf of over 50 members worldwide, I am writing to inquire why journalist Rafael Marques was denied permission to attend the IFEX Annual Meeting in New York City, the United States on 21- 23 May 2000. The meeting was co-hosted by the four IFEX members in New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and PEN American Center. At that meeting, which was attended by over 100 free expression advocates and supporters from around the world, participants expressed serious concern that Sr. Marques had not been able to join us.

I wrote to you in early May asking for your permission to allow Sr. Marques to travel to our meeting, where we discussed issues related to free expression and independent media worldwide. Because of his recent experiences, we wanted to invite Sr. Marques to the meeting in order to help publicise his case. We had hoped he could talk about the media situation in Angola, and he was scheduled to address a reception at the Open Society Institute being held in conjunction with our meetings. We believe free expression is the cornerstone of democracy and Sr. Marques is playing an important role in the development of Angola into a truly free society.

In my previous letter to Your Honour, I wrote, "By allowing Rafael Marques to go to New York, Angolan authorities will be sending a message that they support free expression." Clearly, denying him permission to travel does not reflect this ideal. Rather it lends credence to CPJ's naming of President Dos Santos as one of the ten Enemies of the Press, a reputation he would presumably be eager to rid himself. Furthermore, we understand that a number of journalists who were banned from leaving Angola recently - including Aguiar dos Santos, who was sentenced along with Sr. Marques - have subsequently been allowed to depart. This leads us to conclude that Sr. Marques has been singled out and is being held to a different standard from other journalists.

I'd like to conclude that this incident comes at a time when Sr. Marques and other journalists in Angola, including Andres Mussamo, have been in court as a result of their work as journalists which is contrary to the right to exercise one's free expression as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is time for Angolan authorities to publicly embrace this and all human rights.
Yours truly,

Sharmini Peries
CJFE Executive Director

CC. Honourable Judge Joaquim de Abreu Cangato
Tribunal Provincial de Luanda
3ª Secção da Sala dos Crimes Comuns do 3º Juízo

Hon. Eduardo Dos Santos
President of Angola
Luanda, Angola
Fax: +2442 330238/331898/391691

Embassy of the Republic of Angola
75 Albert St. Suite 900, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5E7
Fax: +613 234 1179

Committee to Protect Journalists

Open Society Institute

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