Maputo — Mozambican journalist Estacio Valoi has threatened to sue the soldiers who illegally detained him and two companions earlier this month in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
The three had been working in the districts of Mocimboa da Praia and Palma, both of which are affected by acts of terrorist gangs, believed to be Islamic fundamentalists. They were detained for the military for about 48 hours, and when they were eventually released without charge, the soldiers refused to return their computers and cameras.
Interviewed by the German station, DW Africa, Valoi said that he, South African researcher David Matsinhe and their assistant, were "ambushed" by about 20 soldiers of the Mozambican Defence Force (FADM), some 15 kilometres from Palma town, even though they had obtained authorisation to work in this part of the province.
Valoi recalled the soldiers saying: "Get out of the car! We've been looking for you. We have orders from our superiors, the same ones who said you could go to Chitolo (a village in Palma). They're the same ones who said we have to stop you here".
When Valoi and Matsinhe stepped out of the car, the soldiers demanded to see their cameras and their computers.
"They went directly for my cameras, and they confiscated my computer", said Valoi. "We showed our credential and gave it to them. Another group of more than 30 soldiers appeared and behind them came the commander of that region in an armoured vehicle. When he arrived, the situation got worse. He told us 'You are not welcome'"
The soldiers took them to a Palma primary school, and demanded to see what was on their cell phones. At first they refused, then one of the captains said "Here you have no rights. We're going to take away all your rights. Give us the passwords to all these machines, otherwise - here we don't play about with anyone. Here you're going to die, because this zone is under our protection. You're going to die and they won't know how you died and why you died".
Under this pressure, Valoi and Matsinhe yielded. Two days later they were released, but without their equipment. The soldiers told them that if they wanted their equipment back, they would have to apply to the Ministry of the Interior.
Valoi said that was precisely what they intended to do, and they have lawyers who will contact the Ministry. He added that they also intended to take the military to court for the soldiers' grossly illegal behaviour, "because we think we live in a state ruled by law".
"Since we received death threats, this goes beyond a question of freedom of the press and freedom of expression", he added.