April 15, 2011

Dr. João Maria Moreira de Sousa
Procurator General of the Republic
Procurador Geral da República
Procuradoria Geral da República
Rua 17 Setembro Luanda
República de Angola
Fax: + 244 222 333 170 / + 244 222 333 172

Guilhermina Contreiras da Costa Prata
Ministro da Justiça
Ministério da Justiça
Rua 17 Setembro, Luanda
República de Angola
Fax: +244 222 330 327 / +244 222 338 175

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the release on bail of reporter Armando José Chicoca.

According to our information, Chicoca, reporter for various private Angolan newspapers including Folha 8, Agora, and O Apostolado, was released on bail of US$2,400 on April 6, 2011, following an order by the Angolan Supreme Court. We understand that his appeal was initially rejected by a provincial court because it had been lodged after the expiration date. However, Chicoca’s lawyer filed a complaint to the Supreme Court arguing that the appeal had been submitted late because the last day by which the appeal could be lodged had been a holiday.

Chicoca was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of US$2,100 on charges of defamation by a court in the southwestern province of Namibe on March 3, 2011. The charges stem from his reports on sexual harassment allegations against the presiding judge of the Provincial Court of Namibe, the very same individual who filed the lawsuit against Chicoca. Chicoca’s defense lawyer was not present during his trial and it was not clear whether or not he had been barred from attending.

PEN American Center welcomes the release of Armando José Chicoca, however we remain deeply concerned that the conviction against him has not yet been dropped. We believe that Chicoca was convicted solely for his journalistic activities, which is a clear breach of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Angola is a state party, and we therefore call on authorities to drop all charges and end all harassment against him. We also urge you to decriminalize press offenses, including defamation, in order to avoid similar infringements on free expression in Angola in the future.

Thank you for your considertation of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                  
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee  

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Josefina Pitra Diakité
Ambassador of the Republic of Angola to the U.S.
Embassy of Angola in the U.S.
2100-2108 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 822-9049

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