Mozambican economist, FB journalist acquitted

2015-09-16 22:15

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Maputo - A prominent Mozambican economist was acquitted on Wednesday of defamation charges stemming from a Facebook post comparing ex-president Armando Guebuza to Hitler.

Economist Carlos Castel-Branco had in November 2013 written a post on his Facebook timeline calling on the former leader to resign over his style of governance, which he likened to that of dictators Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Mobutu Sese Seko, former dictator of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Fernando Mbanze, editor of the online newsletter MediaFax, reproduced the post and was accused of abusing press freedom.

But Judge Joao Guilherme defended their freedom of speech, ruling that "the text in question was part of the freedom of citizens to express themselves."

The criticism is "perfectly acceptable in a democracy," said Guilherme handing down his judgement in a Maputo court.

"This whole process has been a great lesson in democracy," Castel-Branco told reporters outside the courthouse following the decision.

"I think our country today is freer than ever, that our democracy has more meaning today than yesterday."

Mbanze said the judge has "reaffirmed that citizens have the right to think differently."

International human rights organisations had denounced the charges.

"Both men were simply exercising their right to freedom of expression by speaking out about the governance of Mozambique on social media and in a newspaper," said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's director for Southern Africa on Tuesday.

"That is clearly not a crime."

Read more on:    mozambique  |  southern africa  |  media

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