Mozambique: Threats to Press Freedom in Nampula

Maputo — The Nampula provincial nucleus of the Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) has protested against the seizure of equipment from one journalist, and death threats against another last week in this northern province.

In the first incident, on Friday afternoon, police confiscated a tape recorder and two mobile phones from Inacio Mutipo, a reporter on the Nacala Community Radio. Mutipo had been covering the lethal shooting of one policeman by another in the district of Nacala-a-Velha.

On Saturday night, the editorial director of the electronic paper “Ikweli” in Nampula city, Aunicio da Silva, received a death threat from an individual who has not yet been identified. The individual accused Silva of publishing articles that damaged the image of Carlos Saíde, the candidate of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) for the Nampula City mayoral by-election scheduled for 24 January 2018.

Both cases, the MISA nucleus accuses, “constitute a flagrant threat to press freedom and this is a crime”.

The confiscation of equipment which reporters need for their work, and the issuing of death threats against journalists “should be a matter of concern for the institutions responsible for the security of citizens and their property”, said the MISA release.

The Regional Director of the human rights body Amnesty Internatonal, Deprose Muchena, said “Aunício da Silva's life has been threatened simply because he was doing his job as an investigative journalist: holding the powerful to account. This incident represents yet another attack on media freedom in Mozambique and sends a chilling message to journalists across the country to stay silent or face the consequences”.

“Journalism is not a crime”, added Muchena. “The Mozambican authorities must protect the profession by urgently investigating these threats against Aunício. Anyone found to be criminally responsible for threatening and harassing journalists must be brought to justice in a fair trial.”

Silva's case seems to show that bitter disputes inside the MDM are spilling into the wider Nampula society.

The January by-election was precipitated by the assassination of Mayor Mahamudo Amurane. His killers have not yet been arrested.

Although Amurrane was elected on the MDM ticket in the municipal elections of 2013, his relations with the rest of the MDM leadership soured. He accused MDM leaders of wanting him to raid Nampula municipal funds for political party purposes, which he refused to do. Amurane announced that he intended to stand for a second term of office - but not as an MDM candidate.

The choice of an MDM candidate for the by-election has been far from consensual. According to a report in the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, the favoured candidate of the MDM rank and file in Nampula was Rachide Carvalho, who is currently a member of the national parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. But the MDM leadership overruled this decision, and imposed Carlos Saide, who is a former city councillor.

This has caused such bitterness that Carvalho is considering boycotting the MDM Second Congress, which opens in Nampula on Tuesday.

Carvalho came under personal attack from MDM General Secretary, Luis Boavida, at a rally in the Namicopo administrative post, where Boavida was introducing Saide to the electorate.

“It's Rachade Carvalho who is promoting intrigues”, accused Boavida. “He's a deputy in the Assembly of the Republic. We've created conditions for him to eat. But now he wants the place of mayoral candidate”.

Cited in Tuesday's issue of “Mediafax”, Carvalho said he was not sure whether he should take part in the Congress “because with this kind of atmosphere, I don't know whether there is any space for me to participate”.

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