Maputo — A Mozambican journalist who was investigating police extortion has been fined the equivalent of 200 US dollars for supposedly violating the rules of the state of emergency, imposed to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
The journalist, Omardine Omar, who works for the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", was detained last Thursday. The police allege that he was drinking alcohol in public and not wearing a mask. He spent three nights in the cells and was only released on Sunday.
In its Wednesday edition, "Carta de Mocambique" says that in reality Omar was investigating a case of alleged police extortion when he was violently attacked by policemen belonging to the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR, the Mozambican riot police).
Omar had received a written denunciation on 22 June, that policemen were using a street corner in central Maputo (between Emilia Dausse and Romao Fernandes Farinha Avenues) to waylay and extort money from informal vendors, who were trying to sell goods outside the limits of the new Estrela Vermelha municipal market.
The evidence against Omar was so thin, that when the case came to trial on Tuesday, the Public Prosecutor dropped the charges and asked for his acquittal. But the judge, Francisca Antonio, pushed ahead with the trial, accepted the word of the police, and found Omar guilty. She sentenced him to 15 days imprisonment, converted into a fine of 13,700 meticais (about 200 dollars).
The Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) provided a lawyer to defend Omar, who has promised to appeal against the verdict and sentence.
Omar is a key investigative reporter on "Carta de Mocambique", responsible for much of the paper's coverage of the war in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.