Those who speak truth to power in oppressive regimes usually pay for it with their lives or freedom. Such is the case with Angolan journalist Rafael Marques, who just won a top press freedom award.
The award, World Press Freedom Hero, handled by the International Press Institute (IPI), was given in recognition of his bravery in the face of government harassment and persecution in the course of his anti-corruption crusade.
Marques, a veteran of Angolan prisons, has with his crusade shined the light on the corrupt practices of those in government, and made calls for freedom of the press.
In a journalistic career spanning 26 years, from his days as a reporter with state-owned newspaper Jornal de Angola to now, Marques had maintained his stance on integrity and taking the government tí task on its corrupt practices.
His stint in Jornal de Angola ended in a sack after his refusal to favorably report on the government as expected.
He repeatedly called out former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his cronies for corruption, incompetence and sabotage of the national economy.
A thorne in the flesh of the establishment, he was in 1999 arrested and charged with defamation after describing Former President dos Santos as a dictator. He spent 43 days in pre-trial detention before being convicted and given a six-month prison term in March 2000. Angola’s Supreme Court later reduced the penalty to a suspended sentence.
In 2008, after years of writing for independent outlets in Angola and authoring numerous reports on human rights violations, Marques founded the watchdog website Maka Angola, which provides investigative coverage of corruption involving top Angolan political, business and military leaders.
“Despite Angola’s systematic repression of independent media, Rafael Marques has managed, at great personal risk, to bravely and persistently shine a light on abuse of power at the highest levels,” said Barbara Trionfi, the IPI executive director.
“I am honoured because this award comes at a time when I am on trial for exposing high-level corruption, while President Lourenço claims to be fighting it,’‘ Marques remarked.
The award will be presented to Marques on June 22 in Abuja, Nigeria at the IPI’s annual World Congress and General Assembly.
Marques dedication to his creed and craft is an example to us all.