JOHANNESBURG, 28 December (IRIN) -
Nicholas Howen, Chief of the Human Rights Division for the United Nations
Office in Angola (UNOA) has paid tribute to Angolan journalists and the
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in their fight for press freedom
and human rights journalism in Angola.
Speaking on the occasion of the MISA-Angola Human Rights Journalism award, Howen said: "I hope that it will encourage journalists to report on the facts about the human rights situation in Angola: The serious abuses that continue day-to-day and the work of civil society and government in trying to improve the situation. Just reporting the facts, letting them speak for themselves, is often more powerful than opinion." He saluted the Namibia-based MISA saying that it was "an African organisation, by Africans for Africans."
Howen said the fact that there was a growing debate within Angola on issue of press freedom was encouraging and that it was a "sign of the democratic gains of the last nine years".
The MISA journalism award went to William Tonet, editor and publisher of 'Folha 8', for a report on a police detention centre, where he was held briefly earlier this year.
Howen also said: "I have been concerned about incidents since last year of journalists being reportedly assaulted, illegally searched or receiving anonymous or threatening telephone calls or other actions of intimidation. I hope that these will be investigated and properly dealt with."
Howen made special reference to the question of defamation against public leaders saying that there was a growing trend in the democratic world to abolish criminal penalties for such defamation. Recently the Angolan journalist and human rights activist, Rafael Marques, was charged with criminally defaming Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in an article for 'Folha 8' earlier this year. It accused the president of making personal gains out of the country's ongoing civil war.
Recently, the National Assembly's chief whips met with parliament chairman Roberto de Almeida to call for a debate on press freedom. National Assembly spokesman Ventura de Azevedo promised that the January 2000 plenary session would consider a petition from Angolan opposition parties for a debate on freedom of expression.
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