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US Expresses Concern About Angolan Journalist's Conviction

FILE - Journalist Rafael Marques is interviewed at his home in Luanda, Angola, May 12, 2015.

The United States said Friday that it was disappointed by the conviction of Rafael Marques, a prominent Angolan journalist and anti-corruption activist.

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said the United States was concerned that the decision would have a negative impact on the freedoms of expression and press in Angola.

In a statement, Rathke urged Angola's government to respect its citizens' constitutional right to freedom of expression, and he noted that the United States had regularly made clear its concerns about human rights, press freedoms, governance and corruption in Angola.

An Angolan court Thursday sentenced Marques to a six-month suspended jail term for defaming army generals in a book about human rights abuses at Angola's lucrative diamond mines. The court also ordered Marques to withdraw the book from the market.

Marques has been arrested multiple times; he was first arrested in 1999 as a newspaper reporter.

Marques' critics say he has sown dissent and defamed the government by alleging corruption and calling the nation's leader a "dictator" — a charge for which he was tried, sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay damages directly to the president.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented numerous instances of arrest, intimidation and killings of journalists in Angola. Since 1992, the year Marques joined the state-owned Jornal de Angola, 10 journalists have been killed on the job, and the CPJ classifies seven of those deaths as murder.

VOA News' parent organization, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, says four VOA journalists have been targeted by authorities in Angola since 2006.