Maputo — Unknown assailants on Sunday night set fire to the Maputo offices of the independent weekly paper "Canal de Mocambique" and the online daily "Canalmoz".
The damage was almost total. When a crew from the independent television station STV visited the premises, on Avenida Maguiguana, in central Maputo, all the furniture, computers, television sets and other equipment had been reduced to ashes and scrap metal. Parts of the ruined offices were still smouldering.
The offices share a building with several residential flats, and it was their occupants who sounded the alarm and called the fire brigade. The flames were doused before the fire could spread to other parts of the building.
The Executive Editor of "Canal de Mocambique", Matias Guente, told STV that inside the gutted offices remains of homemade bombs and jerry cans of fuel were found. He had no doubt that the offices had been targeted by arsonists.
Asked why the paper should have been attacked, Guente said he assumed it was because of its editorial line. "Canal de Mocambique" is fiercely critical of the Mozambican government and the ruling Frelimo Party. "Lots of people are not pleased with what we write", said Guente.
His immediate concern was to ensure that this week's issue of the paper hits the streets on Wednesday. Guente said that the shareholders of the paper's parent company will meet later on Monday to discuss its future.
But Guente, who described the arson as "an assault against press freedom", was determined that "we shall not stop".
The oldest independent media company in the country, Mediacoop, which owns the weekly paper "Savana" and the daily newssheet "Mediafax", has offered its full support to "Canal de Mocambique".
Thus this week's issue of "Canal de Mocambique" will be published from the Mediacoop premises. Mediacoop chairperson Fernando Lima told STV that this support will continue for as long as "Canal de Mocambique" is without its own offices.
Lima blamed the attack on "the most conservative and reactionary elements" in the Frelimo Party.
This is the second attack against "Canal de Mocambique" in less than a year. On 31 December 2019 Guente narrowly escaped a kidnap attempt.
According to a source in the paper, three unidentified assailants attacked Guente in the inner Maputo neighbourhood of Alto Mae, and attempted to drag him into their car. The men carried firearms, baseball bats and golf clubs.
But Guente put up a fight. Although injured, he was able to escape to a nearby workshop. Passers-by who saw what was going on called for help, and the would-be kidnappers fled the scene. Guente received medical care at a private clinic.
The attempt to snatch Matias Guente from a busy Maputo street inevitably recalls the successful kidnappings of Jose Macuane in May 2016 and of Ericino de Salema in March 2019. Both were political commentators on STV. They were shot, beaten and severely injured, but survived. Nobody has ever been arrested in connection with the Macuane and Salema kidnappings.