English PEN protests the eight-month prison sentence imposed on Felisberto de Grâça Campos, the journalist and director of the Angolan newspaper Semanário Angolense.
According to PEN’s information, Grâça Campos was convicted of ‘insult, slander, calumny and infringement of rights’ and sentenced on 25 September 2007. The privately-owned weekly Semanário Angolense was also issued with a heavy fine of 18.7 million kwanza (US$250,000) for criminal libel. The charges were filed by a former minister of justice who had previously complained about articles published by the newspaper in 2001 and 2004 alleging trafficking of influence.
Grâça Campos did not attend the previous hearings because, reportedly, he was not notified of the hearing dates and was out of the country. Therefore he did not have the chance to submit his defence. An appeal was lodged with the Supreme Court, requesting the sentence be suspended and requesting a retrial. The judge allowed the right to appeal, but was sent to prison to serve his sentence pending the hearing. Grâça Campos contested this, telling the press, ‘I have not been allowed the right to deny the complaint nor to explain the allegation about my absence’.
On 9 October Grâça Campos was reportedly rushed to the infirmary attached to Sao Paulo prison in a suburb of Luanda, the Angolan capital, where he was examined and underwent tests. He suffers from diabetes and requires immediate medical treatment. His wife, Helena Campos, has reported that she has not been permitted to see him or speak to him. She claims that the hospital does not have the adequate equipment to care for his condition and she fears that he could fall into a coma.
PEN condemns the use of criminal defamation laws against writers and journalists, and calls for there to be a review of Grâça Campos’ case and for his immediate release on health grounds.
PEN is campaigning against the use of criminal defamation laws worldwide as a serious threat to freedom of expression. It notes that journalists who are reporting on corruption are particularly liable to be sentenced, and there are fears that such laws are being used to silence legitimate criticism. PEN considers civil laws that do not bear the threat of imprisonment to be more appropriate avenues through which complaints of libel can be addressed. PEN also sees the often extraordinarily heavy fines levied by both criminal and civil courts in defamation cases as having a general chilling effect on journalists’ and writers’ ability to report freely.
For further information on the case please see:
Please send appeals:
Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Felisberto de Grâça Campos on humanitarian grounds in view of his ill health;
Urging the authorities to reconsider their decision to impose a prison sentence and heavy fine on Grâça Campos;
Requesting the Angolan government to decriminalise offences such as libel in order to avoid similar cases in the future.
Procurator General of the Republic
Exmo. Sr. Dr. Augusto da Costa Carneiro
Procurador Geral da República
Procuradoria Geral da República
Rua 17 Setembro
Luanda, República de Angola
Fax: 244 222 333 170/ 244 222 333 172
Minister of Justice
Sua Excelência Manuel Aragão
Ministro da Justiça
Ministério da Justiça
Rua 17 Setembro, Luanda, República de Angola
Fax: 244 222 330 327/ 244 222 338 175
Please note, you may also send appeals via the Angolan representatives in London:
HE Mrs Ana Maria Teles Carreira
22 Dorset Street
Fax: 0207 486 9397
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/angolanewspaperdirectorandjournalistfelisbertodegracampossentencedtoeightmonthsimprisonment/