The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Commissioner Lawrence Mute, has welcomed a landmark decision by the Provincial Court of Luanda in Angola to acquit two journalists: Rafael Marques and Mariano Brás on charges of insult and defamation against the former Attorney General of Angola, describing it as a victory for freedom of expression in Africa
According to the Special Rapporteur, the decision is in line with the Resolution on Repealing Criminal Defamation Laws in Africa (ACHPR/Res.169 (XLVIII)10), which calls on State Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) to repeal criminal defamation laws or insult laws which impede freedom of speech.
The Resolution particularly underlines that criminal defamation laws constitute serious interference with freedom of expression and impedes the role of the media as a watchdog, preventing journalists and media practitioners from practicing their profession without fear and in good faith, he said.
In line with this Resolution, the Court affirmed the journalistic duty to inform the public and further highlighted the importance of public officials being exposed to criticism and scrutiny in a democratic society.
The Special Rapporteur noted that the Court’s stance is in line with Principle XII(1) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa which says: “States should ensure that their laws relating to defamation conform to certain standards, including that no one shall be found liable for true statements, opinions or statements regarding public figures which it was reasonable to make in the circumstances.”
Remarking on the judgment, the Special Rapporteur said: “This is indeed an important stepping stone towards the repeal of criminal defamation laws in Angola. Accordingly, the Special Rapporteur urges the Government of Angola and other State Parties to the African Charter to work towards full implementation of Resolution 169, which aims to promote freedom of expression in line with Article 9 of the African Charter.”