Media barred from insurgent region in Mozambique

2019-02-21 17:32
Jail. (iStock)

Jail. (iStock)

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Journalists covering conflict involving an armed Islamist group in in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, have been detained.

Amade Abubacar, a journalist who was interviewing villagers displaced by insurgents, was held by the military and prohibited from having outside contact for 13 days last month. Abubacar was later released and handed over for civilian prosecution.

"The Mozambican government's actions to silence the media in Cabo Delgado obstruct public scrutiny of the military operations and alleged abuses," Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch Dewa Mavhinga said.

Abubacar was arrested on January 5 and held at a military barracks in Mueda District where soldiers allegedly beat him and treated him badly. He was also denied access to a lawyer or family members while in captivity.

He was later charged with "violation of state secrets" and "public instigation to crime".

Under Mozambican law, however, military personnel are forbidden from holding captives in military barracks and detainees need to be handed over to the police immediately. The police either arrest and charge, or release the suspects within a 48-hour period.

More captive cases

- An editor in Nampula (who asked not to be identified for security purposes), was detained twice since September last year. He was held at military checkpoints for several hours and was threatened to be killed if he was found to be lying about why he was there.

- A Zimbabwean journalist was stopped by army soldiers on June 30, 2018 in Temba City, along with his driver and interpreter while interviewing locals in public. The soldiers took him to the nearest police station where he was kept while he was denied any outside contact. He was later released without being charged.

- In June 2018, a team from BBC Africa was denied accreditation to work in Cabo Delgado. 

- On July 10, 2018, three members from an international news agency was detained for a few hours in the Mocímboa da Praia district. On arrival at the police station, their memory cards were removed and photos were deleted from their cameras.

- Two Cabo Delgado journalists were allegedly warned against reporting on any events in certain villages unless "there is a visit by government officials". One of the journalists was threatened by a member of the police investigation unit. The journalist said: "A member of the police investigation unit told me that I should stop acting like a brave man if I loved my life and my family."

- On December 17, a journalist, an academic and a driver were detained in Mocímboa da Praia after interviewing residents of Chitolo village. The academic said 15 army soldiers took them to makeshift barracks where about 80 soldiers were camped at Quelimane Primary School even though the school was still functioning. They were questioned for several hours and their cameras and cellphones were searched and confiscated.

"By obstructing the media in Cabo Delgado, the government is trying to prevent Mozambicans from learning what both sides to the conflict are doing," said Mavhinga.

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Read more on:    mozambique  |  southern africa
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