Maputo — The Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) has condemned the threats and aggression against reporters who were attempting to cover the aftermath of the tragedy at a sports stadium in the northern city of Nampula where ten people died in a crush at the end of an election rally addressed by President Filipe Nyusi.
The intimidation against journalists occurred as they tried to cover the entry of the dozens of injured into Nampula Central Hospital. The MISA Nampula Provincial Nucleus reported that members and sympathisers of the ruling Frelimo Party prevented journalists from filming supposedly "not to besmirch the party" or allow its opponents to take advantage of the tragedy.
Equipment belonging to two reporters of the private television station TV-Successo was damaged, and the reporters were forced to erase the footage they had shot of the victims entering the hospital.
Frelimo members, MISA accuses, threatened a cameraman from the islamic station, TV Haq, but other members of the party intervened to prevent an assault. Nonetheless, somebody (whose identity is currently unknown) pointed a gun at the cameraman to dissuade him from shooting any more footage.
The MISA statement pointed out that it was Frelimo itself that invited the media to cover its election campaign, and that the role of journalists includes reporting everything that happens at campaign events - including the Wednesday tragedy at the Nampula stadium.
MISA thought it incomprehensible that the same party which invited journalists to its campaign should try and prevent them from covering an event linked to the campaign.
The ban on coverage, the threats with a firearm, the damage to equipment, and the order to erase footage, it said, amounted to "assaults on the physical integrity of journalists and censorship, which are crimes against press freedom".
MISA-Mozambique urged the bodies of the administration of justice to find out who gave the orders for these acts, and to hold them responsible.
MISA also encouraged journalists "to remain firm in their activities of reporting and registering all incidents in the election campaigns, with the greatest impartiality and independence".