2017 Democracy Award Honoree

Rafael Marques de Morais, Angola

Mr. Rafael Marques de Morais is a journalist and human rights defender with a special interest in political economy and human rights in Angola. Born in Luanda, Marques de Morais holds a B.A. (Hons) in Anthropology and Media from Goldsmiths, University of London, and an M.Sc. in African Studies from the University of Oxford. He was a visiting scholar at the African Studies Department of SAIS/ Johns Hopkins University (2012), a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (2011), and a Draper Hills Summer Fellow at the Stanford Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (2016). He currently runs the watchdog website “Maka” dedicated to exposing corruption and human rights abuses in his country.

Marques de Morais began his career as a journalist at state-run newspapers in the early 1990s but soon ran afoul of government censors. In 1999, he published a story in a small, independent paper titled “The Lipstick of Dictatorship.” In the article, he described Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos as a dictator and exposed him as corrupt. He was prosecuted for that article and spent 43 days in prison, 11 of which were in solitary confinement, before being released and receiving a six-month suspended sentence. He subsequently turned his efforts to peace initiatives, calling for an end to the 27-year Angolan civil war.

Marques de Morais has authored various reports exposing impunity and corruption in Angola. His book, Diamantes de Sangue: Corrupção e Tortura em Angola [Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola] (2011) investigated corruption and human rights abuses in the Angolan diamond industry. Following its publication, eight Angolan generals and two private mining companies sued Marques for defamation – twice in Portugal where the book was originally published and once in Angola. The Portuguese prosecution services dismissed the case in 2013.  The generals subsequently constituted themselves as private prosecutors in an attempt to pursue a civil suit in Portugal before finally dropping the matter in 2015. However, in a trial heavily criticized by international observers, an Angolan court convicted Marques de Morais for criminal defamation in May 2015, and he received a six month suspended sentence without the hearing of plaintiffs and witnesses in court or the examination of evidence. Currently, Marques de Morais is being charged for insulting the Attorney General of Angola, due to his publically exposing how the Attorney General’s private business dealings conflict with his public duties.

Throughout his career, Marques de Morais has experienced several run-ins with the Angolan authorities, arrests, legal and physical harassment, economic and social sanctions, and remains under permanent surveillance. In 2013, the Rapid Intervention Police surrounded him with a team of 54 members of their special forces and arrested him while he was interviewing activists who had just been released from jail. Marques and his interviewees were severely beaten while being filmed and threatened with extra-judicial execution. Hours later- due to international pressure- he was released, but the activists were kept in jail for a number of days.

Marques de Morais has been the recipient of a number of awards in recognition of the work he has undertaken to promote human rights and combat corruption. In 2013 he was co-recipient of the Integrity Award given by Transparency International for his work in exposing the scourge of corruption in Angola. In 2014, the UCLA Anderson School of Management honored him and his co-author with the Gerald Loeb Award for International Reporting, for a groundbreaking investigation on how the Angolan President made his daughter a billionaire through official decrees and state looting. Most recently, in 2015, for his work as an investigative journalist and human rights defender, he received the Journalism Award from Index on Censorship, while the University of British Columbia bestowed him with the Allard Prize for Integrity.

Mr. Marques de Morais is currently working on a report investigating extra-judicial executions in the capital city of Luanda, Angola.

Awards

2000-Percy Qoboza Award for Outstanding Courage, National Association of Black Journalists

2006-Civil Courage Prize, The Train Foundation

2013-Integrity Award, Transparency International (co-winner with

2014- Gerald Loeb Award for International Reporting, UCLA Anderson School of Management (co-winner with Kerry A. Dolan, Forbes)

2015-Journalism Award, Index on Censorship

2015- Allard Prize for Integrity, University of British Columbia (co-winner with John Githongo, Kenya)

Read more on NED-supported programs in Angola.

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