3 July 2014

Mozambique: Attorney General's Office Ignores Investigation Into Legitimacy of G40's Existence

Just over three months have passed but the Attorney General's Office is yet to make a pronouncement with regard to a petition by Armando Nenane, journalist, human rights activist, and executive director of the Mozambican Association of Judiciary Journalism (AMJJ).

In his capacity as citizen, Nenane submitted to the Attorney General's Office a petition for an investigation into the reported list of analysts and commentators supposedly imposed by the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo's) propaganda office upon state media organs like Radio Mozambique and Mozambique Television (TVM) so they are the only ones to enjoy the privilege of commenting on matters that have to do with the country's life while fellow Mozambicans with other points of view - deemed subversive to political power - are sidelined.

Public Administration has a max! imum of 15 days to reply to petitions presented by citizens with regard to a number of issues likely to cause indignation or to require clarification.

However, with regard to the above mentioned case, that deadline was not met which amounts to a violation of the "principle of speedy administrative procedure" that covers all public institutions.

In addition to allowing the deadline to expire, the Attorney General's Office says it can only respond to the person who presented the petition - in other words, Armando Nenane, not the media. On 30 June, @ Verdade contacted that institution to understand the reasons for the silence in a matter deemed to be of public interest. Joaquim Aleluia, secretary for the director of the Attorney General's Office, promised to contact us in course, but that had not happened by the time of going to print. In addition, Nenane told us on 2 July that he had not had any answer, either, adding that he finds it odd that the Attorney General! 's Office refused to provide information on the matter to the media. He stressed that "the performance of public service organs - the media, in this instance - is in everyone's interest and information must be made available." He said that he is not surprised with the delay, adding that it is a deeply rooted practice in public institutions.

The petition

Nenane's petition to the Attorney General's Office is dated 27 March and copied to the following institutions: Higher Social Communication Council (CSCS); Information Office; Administrative Court; National Human Rights Commission; Human Rights League; Law Society of Mozambique; Justice Purveyor's Office; the National Assembly's Constitutional Affairs, Human Rights, and Legality Commission. He urges those institutions to investigate the report carried by the Savana weekly publication concerning the above mentioned list of political experts reportedly privileged by the regime, and the media organs Savana sees as opposing the ruling party.

According to Nenane, the fact that edito! rial heads of public radio and television media give added attention to persons imposed by the ruling party to comment on national affairs without giving room to other views, thereby seriously undermining the principle of the democratic state based on the rule of law, plural expression, the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and the right to information that the Constitution of the Republic of Mozambique affords the citizen. It is also in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights, and other international conventions of which Mozambique is a signatory.

In its number 1020 of 23 July 2013, Savana presents a list of article, analysis, and comment writers supposedly hand-picked to put across the government's positions on radio, television, and newspapers. According to that publication, quoted by Nenane in the petition, the above mentioned list was produced by the Mozambique Liberation Front (Fre! limo) media offices and distributed by public media. Savana referred to a meeting promoted and chaired by [President's Office spokesman] Edson Macuacua which was attended by state media editors and a number of commentators close to the government, allegedly to convey guidelines to them.

The petition notes that "the weekly publication discloses that Tomas Vieira Mario, one of the invited guests at the meeting, asked to leave the meeting." Savana pointed out that it was not the first time that Macuacua invited editors and political experts with a view to dictating the direction of their public interventions.

According to Savana, in August 2012 Macuacua reportedly encouraged a number of journalists and TV commentators to criticize the way some media behaved and approached matters of relevance to the country. Savana highlighted the fact that the biggest target was journalist Alexandre Chiure, Diario de Mocambique delegate and resident commentator on Mozambique Television (TVM's) A Semana programme on Sundays, adding that a few days aft! er the meeting that television programme was suspended.

Savana further reports that, curiously enough, TVM Information Director Simao Ponguane was relieved of his duties a short time afterward. According to the Constitution of the Republic and other ordinary legislation quoted by Armando Nenane in the petition, all citizens have the right to present petitions, complaints, and grievances to the appropriate authorities with a view to restoring their violated rights or in the defence of the general interest.

In his petition, Nenane pointed out that "all citizens have the right to engage in popular action in accordance with the terms of the law, whether personally or through associations acting in the defence of the interests in jeopardy."

Considering that the Republic of Mozambique is a state based on the rule of law; pluralism of expression; organization of democratic policy; and respect for, and guarantee of, fundamental human rights and freedoms, all citiz! ens have the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and to exercise freedom of expression, including the possibility of divulging one's thoughts by all legal means, and also the exercise of the right to information. Those rights may not be limited by censorship assured in the public media by freedom of expression and the discussion of ideas reflecting various currents of thought which the state guarantees through unbiased public media, and the independence of journalists before the government, administration, and other political powers.

Nenane points out that our democracy must not be threatened by that type of ruse while the appropriate authorities look on unperturbed even though they are responsible for looking after the sound operation of institutions, the public service, and respect for different views without discrimination on either side on the basis of race, religion, ethnic group, tribe, gender, age group or political membership.

In his petition, Nenane further noted that "the right to plural, true, and fair ! information is a human right as much as any human right that cannot be ignored, distorted, mortgaged, or postponed so there is the urgent need for the appropriate authorities to intervene with a view to establishing the facts, and explaining the circumstances in which the list of authorized experts is drawn up."

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