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The Higher Mass Media Council (CSCS), the watchdog on press freedom established under the Mozambican Constitution, has condemned a senior parliamentary deputy from the rebel movement Renamo for issuing public threats of physical violence against journalist Marcelo Mosse.
The Renamo deputy, Antono Muchanga, was one of the guests on a panel of speakers last Sunday on the programme “Resenha Semanal” of the private television station Miramar. The panel was discussing press freedom, in the context of celebrations of Mozambican Journalists’ Day, 11 April, the anniversary of the foundation of the National Journalists Union (SNJ).
During the discussion, Muchanga claimed, without giving any details or even the date of the alleged offence, that Mosse had libelled him, and said that, if he got his hands on the journalist, he would “tie him up with wire”.
Mosse was a close collaborator with Mozambique’s foremost investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, prior to the latter’s assassination in November 2000. He worked with Cardoso on the two independent newssheets he founded “Mediafax” and “Metical”, and edited “Metical” for a period after Cardoso’s death. In recent years he has been working freelance. He is also a co-author of the biography of Cardoso: “Carlos Cardoso: Telling the Truth in Mozambique”.
The CSCS found Muchanga’s threat particularly shocking since it was made by a member of parliament, one of the country’s sovereign bodies. It transmitted the idea “that any citizen, including political leaders, can attack the physical integrity of journalists in reaction to what they may publish in the exercise of their duties”.
Threats against journalists by members of parliament, the CSCS added, raise doubts as to what understanding they have about the freedom of expression and freedom of the press, “which are pillars of the democracy under which they were elected”.
The CSCS warned that, should there be any physical attack against Marcelo Mosse, then public opinion and the authorities may suspect that Muchanga was responsible.
The CSCS called on Muchanga publicly to retract his threat, in order to safeguard his own reputation, as well as in defence of freedom of expression.
The CSCS also criticised the moderator of “Resenha Semanal”, who had failed to react to Muchanga’s threat. The CSCS believed the moderator should have censured Muchanga for his use of a television programme to threaten a journalist.
Muchanga’s threat came less than a month after the kidnapping and brutal assault on 27 March of another journalist, Ericino de Salema, by as yet unidentified assailants. Salema is currently recovering in a South African clinic from the savage beating he received, which included breaking bones in both his legs. There is little doubt that Salema was attacked because of his outspoken appearances on the Sunday night chat show “Pontos de Vista” (“Points of View”) on the independent television station STV.
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