Maputo — Several prominent Mozambican journalists and human rights activists have written to President Filipe Nyusi, calling for the release of abducted journalist Ibrahimo Mbaruco and for guarantees of press freedom in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
Mbaruco is a journalist on the community radio station in the Cabo Delgado district of Palma. He disappeared while was on his way home from the radio on 7 April and has not been seen since.
Immediately prior to his disappearance, Mbaruco sent a mobile phone text message to one of his colleagues, saying that he was "surrounded by soldiers". After that he did not answer any calls.
It is believed that those who kidnapped Mbaruco are members of the Mozambicans defence and security forces. The authors of the letter to Nyusi point out that there is no legal basis for such an abduction.
They point out that "it is the duty of the Mozambican state to protect the rights of citizens in general, and of journalists in particular, even in situations of war". This was established under the Geneva Convention and its First Protocol, which Mozambique ratified in 1983.
Although providing security to citizens, including journalists, "is one of the top responsibilities of any civilized state, such as our state, the defence and security forces, of which Your Excellency is Commander-in-Chief, have been doing literally the opposite", the letter accuses.
In addition, to the Mbaruco case, two other Cabo Delgado community radio journalists, from Macomia district, Amade Abubacar and Germano Adriano, were last year detained "simply because they were exercising their professional activity", in line with the Mozambican constitution and press law. Abubacar had been held illegally in a military barracks in the town of Mueda.
Harassment of journalists in Cabo Delgado has continued. This week, the letter continues, Izidine Acha, a reporter on the independent television station STV, was briefly detained in the provincial capital, Pemba, and the photographs he had taken were deleted from his camera.
The letter urges Nyusi, in his role as guarantor of the Constitution, to order the immediate release of Ibrahimo Mbaruco, and to restore Amade Abubacar and Germano Adriano to full freedom. They are currently only enjoying conditional freedom, as they await trial.
The letter urged Nyusi "to explain publicly to all members of the defence and security forces that journalists are not party to conflicts, and so at no time should their work be obstructed, and their fundamental right to freedom violated".
Among the letter's signatories are Fernando Lima, chairperson of Mediacoop, the company that owns the weekly paper "Savana" and the daily newssheet "Mediafax", Jeremias Langa, of the Board of Directors of SOICO, which owns STV, and Ericino de Salema, the Maputo director of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).