Mozambican journalist detained for 34 days

Police arrested Arcénio Sebastião Macuene, a Mozambican freelance journalist, on October 8, 2016, and held him on charges of defaming a police official until press freedom advocates paid his bail on November 11, Mozambican journalists and press freedom advocates told the Committee to Protect Journalists.

According to media reports and a November 17 emailed statement from the Mozambican chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), police detained Macuene in Dondo, near Beira, in Mozambique’s central Sofala province. Macuene contributes to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and other media outlets. Police initially detained the journalist without contact with the outside world, and his colleagues only learned of his detention days later. A local media report quoted a Misa-Mozambique representative as saying it was the first time that a person had been jailed for on charges of defamation.

Macuene was released after Misa-Mozambique’s intervened and posted bail of 20000 metical (US $269), the group said in the emailed statement.

According to Misa-Mozambique’s statement, police at the Balanca police post in Dondo arrested Macuene after the journalist went to the station and accused a policeman of extorting 8000 metical (US$108) from his wife. Macuene contacted the local police commander, who ordered that the policeman in question be called to explain himself.

Misa-Mozambique said the policeman confirmed he had extracted a bribe from the journalist’s wife, apologized, and promised to return the money by the end of the month. But a few minutes later, the commander ordered that Macuene be detained on charges of defaming a policeman. The policeman also accused the journalist of espionage, because he had photographed and filmed them without their consent, Misa-Mozambique said.

Macuene was initially detained at the police station. On October 12, a judge at the Dondo District Court ordered his detention, pending trial on the defamation charge. He was subsequently jailed in the district prison until his release.

Misa-Mozambique’s representative in the region, Rodrigues Luis, on November 29 told CPJ that no date had been set for Macuene’s trial.