Mozambique: Misa Condemns Threats Against Journalists Covering Cabo Delgado War

Maputo — The Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) has "noted with great concern the emergence of another wave of threats against journalists dedicated to the independent coverage of the conflict in Cabo Delgado'.

The most menacing of these threats came from the Cabo Delgado provincial governor, Valige Tauabo, who has accused journalists of working in agreement with the islamist terrorists active in the province.

On Saturday, after launching a project entitled "Sport for Peace' in the provincial capital, Pemba, Tauabo told reporters "sometimes we note that your information is of very doubtful origin, because from your information it seems that the journalists are in line with the terrorists'.

"Our dear journalists are leading us to believe that you have been formatted by the terrorists', he accused. "You recognize their values, you don't recognize the values of the population, you don't recognize the values of our Defence and Security forces'.

Some of the journalists working in Cabo Delgado, he claimed, "seem to have some agreement with the terrorists'.

He protested that, when the authorities pass information on to reporters "you treat it in your way, journalistically, but with a twist, a twist for our province of Cabo Delgado, a twist for the population of Cabo Delgado. What is going on?'

Tauabo did not cite any of the media by name, or say which journalists he had in mind, or explain what information had supposedly been twisted.

The previous day, 16 February, the administrator of Quissanga district, Sidonio Jose, complained of "false news items' about terrorism, supposedly spread "to agitate the public' and "to traumatize the communities'. He said a report that Quissanga town had been occupied by the jihadists was untrue.

MISA commented that "in a country with a strong culture of authoritarianism and militarization, statements such as those of Governor Tauabo could encourage the taking of measures against journalists'.

The recent threats against the media, MISA added, come at a time when the security situation in Cabo Delgado has deteriorated, with a series of attacks in the south of the province and in the coastal area of Macomia district, causing further death and displacement among the population.

MISA "strongly condemns these and any other threats seeking to interfere in and restrict the work of media professionals who are covering the conflict'.

Such restrictions "are a clear violation of all the principles of press freedom'.

One of the main roles of journalism in a democratic society, MISA adds, "is to report on events of public interest, including tragedies such as that which has struck at Cabo Delgado for the past six years'.

Reporting on attacks "does not mean recognizing terrorist values to the detriment of the values of the defence and security forces, as the governor suggests', says the MISA statement. "On the contrary, it provides a public service, which is to keep the country, the world and, in the first instance, the population of the affected areas, informed about the events taking place around them'.

MISA stresses that it condemns the armed violence of jihadist groups, and stands in solidarity with the victims of this violence - "but, as a problem that seriously affects the Mozambican state, the war in northern Mozambique, must be the object of reporting and scrutiny by the media'.

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