Maputo — Three journalists from the American television channel CNN, who are making a programme about Mozambique, were arrested by Mozambican police on Friday morning, as they filmed in the Fajardo wholesale market in Maputo.
The CNN crew consisted of the producer of the programme "Inside Africa", Aja Harris, reporter Errol Barnet, and cameraman Peter Rudden.
According to Erik Charas, founder of the free weekly paper "A Verdade", who was accompanying the CNN team, they were accused of filming the market "without police authorisation".
There is no such crime. The CNN team entered the country legally, and there is no requirement that journalists (or anyone else) must ask permission from the police to film in public places.
Charas says he tried to explain to the police at the Maputo seventh precinct that the harassment of foreign journalists would paint a very poor picture of Mozambique in the outside world.
Instead of listening to sensible advice, the police said they would call in an expert to analyse the film shot by CNN.
The illegal behaviour of the seventh precinct police soon became known to other Mozambique journalists, who in turn advised the press attaches of several ministries. As a result, the scandal reached the ears of the General Command of the Mozambican Police and of Attorney-General Augusto Paulino.
Paulino ordered the immediate release of the CNN team, and at the precinct the journalists received apologies from the police command. Nonetheless, three hours of filming time had been wasted.
It is not yet clear whether any measures will be taken against those policemen who confused visiting foreign journalists with dangerous criminals.