Attacks on the Press 2001: Mozambique

President Joaquim Chissano, restricted by constitutional term limits, announced that he would not seek reelection in 2004. This was unusual in southern Africa, where leaders such as Frederick Chiluba of Zambia and Sam Nujoma of Namibia have indulged in constitutional manipulation in an attempt to stay in power.

After Chissano announced his intention to retire from politics, so-called modernist and traditionalist factions within the ruling FRELIMO party began jockeying over the succession. The modernists are led by Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, a former economist. Armando Guebuza, a nationalist who is unpopular with foreign donors, leads the traditionalist camp. Anxious to keep Mozambique on good terms with the IMF and the World Bank, Chissano is said to favor Mocumbi.

But like many top FRELIMO officials, Mocumbi has been shadowed by allegations of corruption and worse. In late November 2000, Mocumbi allegedly pressured Carlos Cardoso, editor of the daily investigative newsletter Metical, to drop a story he was investigating “for the country’s sake.” The meeting allegedly took place on November 17, 2000, just five days before Cardoso was gunned down three blocks from his paper’s office.

Before his death, Cardoso was investigating corruption scandals that may have reached the highest levels of the ruling elite. President Chissano has vowed that justice will be done in the Cardoso case, but few journalists believe him. In July, Mozambican journalists told a visiting CPJ delegation in the capital, Maputo, that Cardoso’s murder had left them too frightened to cover sensitive stories, particularly those involving corruption.

The delegation included CPJ board member Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune; CPJ deputy director Joel Simon; CPJ Africa program coordinator Yves Sorokobi; South African journalist Phillip van Niekerk; and Mozambican journalist Fernando Lima. During their four-day visit, the delegation members met with reporters, police, and senior government officials.

Mozambican authorities say they have made significant progress in their investigation into Cardoso’s murder. Two brothers from a prominent banking family, one of their business partners, and three alleged gunmen are in jail on charges of conspiring to murder Cardoso. Yet few in Mozambique are satisfied. The government’s account is full of holes and inconsistencies, ranging from the number of hit men (variously, between one and three) to the alleged motive. The government says the bankers killed Cardoso because of his reporting on a 1996 scandal at a local bank called BCM.

CPJ has determined that Cardoso was not actively investigating the four-year-old BCM scandal at the time that he was killed, but was instead probing a newer and even larger scandal at another financial institution called Banco Austral. A senior manager at Banco Austral was murdered in August, a crime that Mozambican authorities have suggested is linked to the Cardoso killing.

Cardoso was also looking into questionable real estate deals in Maputo. Just a few days before he was killed he faxed a list of pointed questions to a prominent local businessman who chaired Banco Austral and was also involved in local land development projects. Yet government investigators interviewed by CPJ insisted that Cardoso’s murder was solely related to his reporting on the BCM affair.

Metical was a subscriber-only faxed newsletter that set new standards for investigative journalism in impoverished, formerly Marxist Mozambique. Many questions clouded Metical‘s prospects for survival without Cardoso. But the paper continued to break important stories, earning more hostility from the political and business elite. In March, businessman Nympine Chissano, President Chissano’s son, filed criminal defamation charges against the paper and its chief reporter, Marcelo Mosse.

The younger Chissano is seeking damages worth US$80,000 in connection with a February 21 article alleging that he was briefly detained in South Africa around February 15 on unspecified charges. Nympine Chissano’s lawyer rejected the story, saying his client “never transported cocaine or other substances forbidden by law inside or outside the country,” according to AIM, the official news service.

Interestingly, the Metical story made no mention of cocaine or any other controlled substance (although other news reports did). It seemed clear that Metical had been singled out because of its aggressive coverage of the Maputo business community, of which Nympine Chissano is a prominent member. Court hearings have been postponed several times. In the worst-case scenario, the court could bankrupt Metical, now the property of Cardoso’s two underage children, and jail Marcelo Mosse. Under pressure, Metical closed down on December 27.

March 3

Marcelo Mosse, Metical

Businessman Nympine Chissano, son of President Joaquim Chissano, filed charges against Mosse and Metical over a February 21 article reporting that Nympine was briefly detained in South Africa around February 15 on unspecified charges.

In a written denial sent to Metical, Nympine Chissano’s lawyer threatened legal action against the newspaper, declaring that his client was not detained and had “never transported cocaine or other substances forbidden by law inside or outside the country,” according to AIM, the Mozambican state news service.

However, all sources interviewed by CPJ concur that the Metical story did not mention cocaine or any other illegal substances. That allegation first appeared in the Johannesburg Mail and Guardian under the byline of a South African journalist. Mosse later repeated the allegation in the Portuguese weekly Expresso, for which he is the correspondent in Mozambique.

Nympine Chissano is seeking damages of US$80,000 from Mosse and Metical, said CPJ sources in Maputo.

Metical was owned by its founder and first editor, Carlos Cardoso. After Cardoso’s murder in November 2000, the paper became the property of his two underage children, Ibo and Milena, who are represented by their mother, Nina Berg. In the worst-case scenario, the court could jail Mosse and bankrupt the Cardoso family.

Under pressure, Metical closed in late December 2001, a year after Cardoso was murdered, gangland style, three blocks from the paper’s offices. The case was still pending at year’s end.

November 1

Jose Arlindo, TVM

Arlindo, a cameraman with the state-run Mozambican Television network (TVM), was attacked in the northern town of Nampula, where the opposition RENAMO party was holding a meeting. RENAMO security agents assaulted the journalist, as well as law enforcement officers.

The incident occurred outside the meeting’s venue, where a group of dissident party members were holding a rally protesting the softening of RENAMO’s party line. (Until the early 1990s, RENAMO was a notoriously brutal guerrilla group that South Africa’s apartheid regime backed against the ruling FRELIMO party, which supported the anti-apartheid struggle.)

RENAMO security guards attacked Arlindo after party official Ossufo Quitine asked that no pictures be taken of the demonstration. The security men also attempted to confiscate Arlindo’s equipment.

The Mozambican Journalists Union condemned the attack, as did RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama.