South African weekly journalists detained over critical report

December 8, 2006

Dominic Mahlangu, Sunday Times
Carlos Litulo, freelance


Police in the southeastern village of Xicumbane detained investigative reporter Mahlangu and freelance photographer Litulo for 14 hours without charge and confiscated their notebooks, cell phones, and a camera, according to CPJ interviews and news reports. A police official ordered the arrests after Mahlangu questioned him about the activities of the notorious Mozambican criminal Annanias Mathe, the journalist told CPJ. Xicumbane is home to Mathe, who is jailed in South Africa on more than 50 charges that include murder and rape, according to international news reports.

Mahlangu and Litulo were taken to a police station and accused of being spies, according to local journalists. Police and state intelligence agents questioned the journalists for several hours about their military service and contacts, searched their car and belongings, and pressured them to sign documents in Portuguese, Mahlangu said. He said he and his colleague don’t read Portuguese, although they believed the documents were confessions. The two were denied food and water during their detention and were kept in an open room exposed to mosquitoes.

The journalists were released after the intervention of the South African government and the Sunday Times, according to Mahlangu. They were taken back to their hotel and escorted out of the country. Their camera was returned, but all their photographs were destroyed.