Reporters Without Borders today condemned the “illogical” conviction of newspaper editor William Tonet for libel and an order for him to pay a 10 million kwanzas (€77,000) fine within five days or go to prison for a year. The supreme court will not agree to hear his appeal unless he first pays the fine.
“The libel has not been proven and the judge was clearly in league with those suing the journalist, who has been a target of the authorities for a long time,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“Tonet seems to be paying the price for being independent and his trial is a warning and threat to the entire media. Normally, the sentence, passed on 10 October by the Luanda provincial court, should have been suspended as soon as the appeal was lodged.” It said journalists covering the trial had also been threatened and prevented from working freely.
Tonet was sued for a 2008 article in his newspaper, the independent Folha 8, accusing three army generals and the head of the customs service of embezzlement, corruption and abusing their authority.
His lawyer, David Mendes, pointed out that a fine for murder was only around 200,000 or at most 700,000 kwanzas. Yet Tonet had been fined far more, even though the facts of the article had been proved.
“Where are we going to find 10 million kwanzas?” said Tonet. “I prefer to go to jail.”
Associcao Justica Paz Democracia, an official African Union human rights observer body in Angola, has launched a campaign to raise the money.