RAPAPORT… Tinta da China, the publisher of “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola” (Diamantes de Sangue, Corrupcao e Tortura em Angola) by Rafael Marques de Morais, released the book online in English. (Download from this link.)
The move was praised by Reporters Without Borders, which facilitated access and wider distribution of the book as it is banned in Angola. The book was originally published in Portuguese in 2011, documenting widespread abuse and murder at some of Angola’s diamond mines. The author linked the abuses to employees of security firms that were owned by military generals and diamond industry businessmen. The generals, in turn, prosecuted Marques de Morais for criminal defamation in Angola and just recently reached an out-of-court settlement; however, the judge still handed the author a six-month suspended prison sentence and ordered the book to be withdrawn and never republished.
“Making this book available shows that censorship is never a solution,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk. “By trying to suppress this information, Angola’s generals have in fact raised its profile and increased the visibility of Marques’ work in the media.”
Under the terms of the sentence, Marques de Morais would serve the six-month jail term if he commits any offense during a probationary period of two years. During the proceedings in court on May 21, the author acknowledged that he had not contacted the generals before writing the book, but had reported the human rights abuses to the security companies. “I only learned in court that the companies never informed (the generals). I acknowledged the explanation they gave to me,” he said. The cases of torture and murder that were outlined in the book, however, never came into question, he added.
Still, Reporters Without Borders charged the prosecution with taking his admission out of context.
“This sentence, coming after the plaintiffs agreed to withdraw their complaint, is absolutely iniquitous,” said Kahn-Sriber. “The way the Angolan authorities twisted Marques’ words shows that they are determined to break him, to reduce him to permanent silence. More generally, it is a message designed to deter all Angolan journalists from covering anything to do with the misdeeds of those in power. We call on the courts to overturn this conviction, which is a disgraceful violation of the very principle of due process.”
Reporters Without Borders joined 50 other human rights groups, as well as Tiffany & Co., Leber Jeweler and Brilliant Earth, demanding that Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos intervene to drop the sentence against Marques de Morais.