October 8, 2002
His Excellency Joaquim Alberto Chissano
President of the Republic of Mozambique
Avenida Julius Nyerere 2000
Caixa Postal 285
VIA FAX: 011-258-492068
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) continues to be alarmed by the serious irregularities in the investigation into the murder of journalist Carlos Cardoso, and we are particularly concerned for the safety of journalists whose recent reporting on the possible involvement of your family has been met by apparent intimidation.
Cardoso, Mozambique’s best-known investigative journalist, was gunned down in the streets of the capital, Maputo, on November 22, 2000, after leaving the offices of Metical, the weekly fax-distributed newsletter that he published. A CPJ delegation visited Maputo in July 2001 to learn more about the investigation.
While six suspects were arrested in connection with the murder, the investigation subsequently stalled. Police never adequately established a motive for the crime, and failed to consider the possibility that Cardoso’s murder was related to journalistic investigations he was working on at the time of his death. A CPJ report on the murder and investigation was presented to the Mozambican ambassador to the United States, Armando Panguene, on May 21, 2002, and made public that same day. To date, and despite repeated requests, CPJ has not received any official response to the report.
During CPJ’s visit to Maputo in July 2001, many journalists told us they were afraid for their safety. Today, the situation is even more alarming. The latest bizarre incident occurred after the independent weekly MediaFax published allegations made in court against your son, Nymphine Chissano.
According to MediaFax, as well as the Maputo weekly Domingo, a man identified as “Opa,” or “Uapa,” testified on September 23 before the magistrate investigating the Cardoso murder. Opa claimed he met Momade Abdul Satar, the accused mastermind of the Cardoso murder, while in jail and alleged that Satar had told him that he had carried out Cardoso’s murder at the behest of someone he described as “o filho do galo” (the son of the rooster). In a September 27 column signed by journalist Fernando Lima, MediaFax reported that Opa had told the magistrate that the “son of the rooster” referred to Nymphine Chissano.
The next night, at about 1 a.m., a truck arrived at the home of Kok Nam, the publisher of Savana, which is owned by the same media cooperative–MediaCoop–that publishes MediaFax. The driver of the truck said he had about 100 chickens to deliver to Kok Nam and Fernando Lima, who had written the article in MediaFax. The driver claimed that the chickens were a gift from the first lady, Marcelina Chissano. Later that day, similar trucks carrying chickens attempted to make deliveries to the home of MediaFax editor Marcelo Mosse and to the offices of MediaCoop.
While the incidents were not themselves threatening, they seem to send a clear message of high-level displeasure, a message that could be dangerous given the current environment in Mozambique. In 2000, Nymphine Chissano filed a criminal defamation suit against Marcelo Mosse, who was then editor of Metical, having assumed the position after Cardoso’s murder. Facing mounting legal pressure, Metical ceased publication earlier this year. Mosse subsequently became editor of MediaFax.
The recent incident also comes only weeks after one of the alleged gunmen in the Cardoso killing escaped from prison in Maputo. Anibal Antonio dos Santos Junior, known as Anibalzhino, escaped from prison in early September. According to reports in the Mozambican press, Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje had been warned that Anibalzhino was planning to try to escape from prison but failed to take action. Meanwhile, former police investigator António Frangoulis, who prosecuted Anibalzhino, claimed in a letter sent to the Minister of the Interior (that was published by MediaFax) to have received threatening phones calls from Anibalzhino after he escaped from prison.
As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, we are dismayed by these latest developments in the Cardoso investigation, which make the prospect of achieving justice in the murder increasingly remote. At the same time, we are deeply concerned for the safety of journalists covering the official inquiry and in the current environment must interpret the attempt to deliver chickens to MediaFax as a threatening gesture.
At this time, we would once again urge you to respond on behalf of the Mozambican government to the specific recommendations included in CPJ’s May 2002 report on the Cardoso investigation.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter and await your response.