Mozambique: Paulino Warns of "extremes" in Freedom of Expression

Maputo — Mozambique's Attorney-General, Augusto Paulino, on Monday condemned those citizens who go “to extremes” in exercising their freedom of expression.

Speaking at a ceremony where he swore into office new chief attorneys for Cabo Delgado, Zambezia, Tete, Sofala and Manica provinces, Paulino warned that the rights and freedoms of one citizen end where those of others begin.

“In freedom of expression there are citizens who exceed the normally tolerable limits for civilised people, in an atmosphere of social norms, civic attitudes and respect among equals, in a state of the democratic rule of law”, he said.

Paulino added that, when citizens go beyond what is permitted under the law, criminal proceedings should be initiated against them, not in order to punish, but to educate them.

Paulino gave no examples, but earlier this month the editors of two papers, the independent newsheet “Mediafax” and the weekly “Canal de Mocambique”, were summoned to appear before the Maputo City attorney's office. They were asked about the publication of an open letter to President Armando Guebuza by prominent academic Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco.

Allegations have been made that the letter insults the President, though Castel-Branco denied that this was his intention. The letter was republished from Castel-Branco's Facebook page.

Nobody, however, has been summoned to appear before prosecutors to answer for undeniably insulting articles that have appeared in recent weeks in the Sunday paper “Domingo”. These articles have appeared mostly under pseudonyms, and have attacked prominent figures in the Mozambican liberation struggle who happen to be of mixed race or of Asian origin, such as Marcelino dos Santos, Jorge Rebelo, Sergio Vieira and Oscar Monteiro, who all served as ministers in the governments of the country's first President, Samora Machel.

Paulino also recognised that the slowness of Mozambican legal procedures is a matter of concern for citizens. “You have the noble opportunity to reverse this scenario”, he told the new chief attorneys. “We expect that each of you and your collectives will be able to say: it was not my fault that this case did not advance quickly”.

He told them that they must know how to listen to and respect, with humility, criticism from citizens, even when the criticisms seem baseless.

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