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Canal de Moçambique newspaper headquarters burned down
MISA-Mozambique registered 32 violations of freedom of expression in Mozambique in 2020, the highest number in the last five years. Cases of physical aggression make up almost a third of the occurrences.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Mozambique) has classified 2020 as the worst year for violations of press and expression freedoms in Mozambique in the last five years. Thirty-two violations were recorded, including the disappearance of journalist Ibraimo Mbaruco, with physical attacks predominating – 10 cases, according to the report on “The State of the Freedom of the Press and Expression”, which combines data from 2019 and 2020 with those of previous years.
According to the Misa report, in 2016, 11 cases were registered, a number that rose to 21 in 2017, 24 in 2018, 20 cases in 2019 and 32 in 2020.
The organization considers that “one of the reasons for the growth of the crimes against journalists in Mozambique” is “the impunity of its perpetrators and inaction of the authorities in the face of these occurrences”.
For example, Misa Mozambique cites the “manifest apathy of the police authorities in the investigation” into the fire in the newsroom of the weekly Canal de Moçambique on August 23, 2020, one of last year’s outstanding cases.
Ibraimo Mbaruco case
The press freedom association also highlights the unsolved abduction and disappearance, on April 7, 2020, of Ibraimo Mbaruco, a journalist at Palma Community Radio in Cabo Delgado.
Amade Abubakar, another journalist reporting on the war in Cabo Delgado, was illegally detained in 2019 and held incommunicado in a military barracks for 11 days.
He was later charged with seven crimes, including instigating collective disobedience and a crime against the state, in a case which Misa maintains has “no evidence”, and which it has challenged in the Nampula Superior Court of Appeal, where it is awaiting a decision.
State of emergency
The government’s declaration of the State of Emergency for the prevention of Covid-19 also increased the incidence of authorities’ violations, the report says, citing abuses and the arbitrary detention of journalists from Deutsche Welle and Carta de Moçambique.
The organization reports a “radicalization of the political discourse against the press reporting on the war in Cabo Delgado” and also what it classifies as “political and economic control of the media” with “exaggerated influence of the dominant party, the Liberation Front of Mozambique (Frelimo)” and an “increase in authoritarianism” from the perspective of global indices.
The report was released on World Press Freedom Day, the date on which the Mozambican president, Filipe Nyusi, released a message promising to “defend the right to information”.
“We will continue to invest in improving the quality of the press activity and facilitate its exercise through the approval of the journalist’s professional portfolio, creation of a communication policy for the development and regulation of community radios and televisions, among other urgent interventions,” the president’s message read.