An official with Mozambique’s state-owned port and railway authority, assaulted journalist Gil Namelo in the port city of Quelimane on August 13, 2022. (Photo credit: Namelo)

Mozambican journalist Gil Namelo assaulted, forced to delete photographs by port official

Around noon on August 13, 2022, Agostinho Conde da Silva, an official with Mozambique’s state-owned port and railway authority, assaulted journalist Gil Namelo in the port city of Quelimane, according to news reports, a statement by the Mozambique chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), and Namelo, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. 

Namelo, the editor-in-chief of the privately owned newspaper Txopela and broadcaster Radio Chuabo FM, was at the port to cover a visit by Manuel Araújo, governor of central Zambezia province, who met with local traders and other officials, according to those sources.

Namelo told CPJ he approached Silva, an official with Mozambique Ports and Railways (CFM), to ask about local vendors who alleged that Silva forced them to leave an area adjacent to the harbor, despite having municipal authorities’ permission to sell their wares to commemorate the city’s 80th anniversary on August 21.

Silva did not respond to Namelo’s questions and instead asked the journalist to delete photos he took of Silva and the governor, which Namelo agreed to do as he was inside the port’s premises and did not have formal authorization to cover the event, the journalist told CPJ.

After Silva’s meeting with the governor ended, Namelo told CPJ he took additional pictures outside the port as the governor walked with Silva and other officials near the vendors who had complained about Silva’s decision to move them. Silva then approached Namelo and told him, “You like taking photos too much. I beat people like that and break phones,” before grabbing the journalist by the neck and dragging him into one of the vendor stalls.

Silva twisted Namelo’s arm until the journalist dropped his phone, according to Namelo and those reports.

“He attacked me in front of everyone. The street vendors were screaming ‘Don’t kill the child,’” Namelo told CPJ. “This happened in front of the governor, his family, and others who watched but didn’t interfere; it was very embarrassing.” 

Silva then took Namelo’s phone and again forced the journalist to delete pictures of Silva next to Araújo. Namelo told CPJ that he had to plea “for about 10 minutes” to get his phone back. “I begged because I had a lot of work registered in it,” Namelo said. “To get it back, while Silva was still promising to beat me and break it, I had to agree to delete the photos.”

Namelo escaped without serious injury and filed a police complaint at Quelimane police station No. 1 against Silva the same day, according to the journalist and the MISA statement.

On August 14, Araújo spoke with journalists about his visit to Quelimane, where he said he witnessed Namelo’s assault and said Silva wanted the photos deleted because he was unhappy with his attire, wearing “slippers and an inadequate shirt,” Namelo told CPJ.

CPJ calls, texts, and requests for comment sent via messaging app to Araújo did not receive any replies.

The Quelimane local government released a statement quoting Araújo on August 14 condemning the attack and calling for the legal prosecution of Silva.

When CPJ called Silva, he said that he grabbed Namelo’s phone and forced him to delete photos before returning it, but denied attacking Namelo.

Silva added that Namelo “never identified (himself) as a journalist,” and said he was “not wearing a vest and I saw no sign of him being a journalist.” 

Namelo told CPJ that he had his press card but did not take it out of his wallet because he knew Silva in his professional capacity as a reporter. “I had also interviewed Silva on previous occasions,” Namelo told CPJ. “He knows I am a journalist.”

Dinis Januário, a police official in Quelimane, told CPJ by phone that Namelo’s complaint had been forwarded to the prosecutor’s office. Rambo Simbe, the local prosecutor, told CPJ by phone on August 29 that he was aware of Namelo’s case and the prosecutor’s office would “follow procedure as soon as the process arrived.”