There are parasites of all kinds in poor countries, Nicholas Kristof writes for The New York Times:
One variety is intestinal, the worms that afflict countless children. In a hospital here in Angola, nurses pointed to a little girl named Marcelina, who they said was at risk of dying from anemia caused by worms and malnutrition. She had so many worms she was spitting them up. The other kind of parasite afflicting Angolan children is the crooked official, often working with Western executives. It’s not a coincidence that Angola is a center for both kinds of parasites.
“Much of the health care budget gets stolen,” Rafael Marques de Morais, an investigative journalist in Angola, told me. “The biggest problem in this country is corruption.”
Last week, Marques de Morais received a Freedom of Expression award from the London-based group Index on Censorship.
Marques de Morais told the Committee to Protect Journalists that when he arrived in court on Tuesday for his scheduled hearing on charges of criminal defamation, 15 additional charges of criminal defamation had been filed against him…… He faces up to 14 years in prison, if convicted of all the charges.
The journalist has described the legal situation as “Kafkasesque”. In a speech last week as joint winner of the Index on Censorship’s freedom of expression in journalism award, Marques said the trial would make him stronger, The Guardian reports.
He later told the Observer: “It will show Angolans there is nothing to fear and challenge them to hold the authorities to account.”
Following disclosure of the new charges, Marques tweeted: “I went to court today facing nine charges of criminal defamation. I left slapped with up to 15 additional ones for defamation. Speechless!”
The latest case against Mr de Morais comes after he wrote a book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola, the BBC adds. Outside court, scuffles broke out between police and protesters who chanted “free Rafael” and “imprison the generals”, the agency said.
“Rafael Marques de Morais has had to contend with this criminal defamation case for more than two years. The new set of charges added this week underscore that the Angolan authorities want to ensnare the journalist in lengthy legal proceedings, wear down his resistance, and deter others from critical reporting,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine. “We urge Angolan authorities to drop the charges and begin a process to reform its outdated criminal defamation laws.”
Marques de Morais has tracked $3 billion accumulated by President dos Santos’s daughter, the $13 million refurbishment of the presidential palace, the Lexus LX 570 luxury S.U.V.’s given to each member of Parliament — all at a time when children aren’t consistently getting five-cent deworming pills, Kristof adds:
I’m honored to be in the same profession as Marques de Morais. He went on trial Tuesday for criminal defamation and could face years in prison; if the United States wants to signal that it cares about corruption, Secretary Kerry could tweet his support and the American ambassador could invite Marques de Morais to a very public lunch.
The last time Marques de Morais was imprisoned, in the 1990s, he said he was released only when the United States ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Richard Holbrooke, visited Angola and insisted on seeing Marques de Morais — in prison if necessary. Angola hurriedly freed him.
Marques is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, specializing in political economy, the diamond industry, and government corruption. A former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, his writings have helped set the agenda for political debate in Angola by exposing abuses of power and endemic corruption through his journalism and his work with Maka Angola, an Angolan platform, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.