In Angola, the generals will be just fine

Beware the bling of banner headlines announcing free speech victories.

Last week the Portuguese Attorney General’s office dismissed a case of libel and defamation against Rafael Marques and the Portuguese publisher Tinta da China. The criminal case against Marques and Tinta da China was filed by nine Angolan generals, all of whom are part owners in Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, a mining company, and Teleservice – Sociedade de Telecomunicações, Segurança e Serviços, a telecom and security firm, that work in the diamond mining regions of Eastern Angola.

Marques is an investigative journalist and human rights activist. The Portuguese Attorney General’s office decided that Rafael Marques’s book Diamantes de Sangue: Corrupção e Tortura em Angola (Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola) published by Tinta da China in 2011, is protected under constitutionally guaranteed laws of freedom of speech and expression in Portugal.

The book details the involvement of the companies in nearly one hundred killings and hundreds more tortures. And it shows the links between the generals and the companies. Media in the West as well as in Africa heralded this as a victory for free speech in Angola (although the case took place in Portugal). Novo Jornal, part of Angola’s independent press, in their February 15th edition, noted the irony of the closure of two court cases on the same issue, neither one going forward, but for diametrically opposed reasons.

In Portugal, the generals’ case against Marques and Tinta da China was thrown out in the name of free speech and the lack of any public crime committed. In Angola a criminal case filed by Marques against the generals was also closed recently. He had lodged a criminal complaint against the generals at the Angolan Attorney General’s office in June 2011 for acts of torture and homicide in the diamond mining areas where the Sociedade Mineira do Cuango and Teleservice operate. In June 2012, the Angolan Attorney General’s office archived the case for lack of evidence, and in November 2012 they notified Marques of their decision.

But beware the bling of banner headlines announcing free speech victories. Further down on my google news feed for the same day was this announcement: “U.S. Army Delegation Visit Angola.” That’s right. Six high-ranking U.S. Africom officers based in Italy began a three-day visit to Angola last Wednesday, signaling a certain coziness between the U.S. armed forces and those of Angola.

The Generals will be just fine.

Further Reading

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