On January 15, 2023, five Mozambique border police officers detained and beat journalist Rosário Cardoso, according to media reports, statements by the National Forum of Community Radios and the Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa, and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
Cardoso left the community radio station Thumbine in Milange, a town in the eastern province of Zambezia, at about 10:15 p.m., when the officers stopped him and demanded to know why he was out so late, the journalist told CPJ.
Cardoso explained that he had just finished the late shift as an announcer at the station and showed them his work-branded T-shirt and national ID. The agents told him to wait with a group of people they had rounded up and left him for about two hours on the side of the road, the journalist said.
“I could see they were letting go only those who paid them bribes. Then, after all that time waiting, they got angry at me because I told them it wasn’t fair for those who don’t have money to pay bribes to have to wait,” Cardoso said.
In response, two officers threw him on the ground, beating him with their batons more than 10 times on the buttocks while telling him, “Mister journalist, here you don’t speak,” he told CPJ. The journalist said he was let go a few minutes later and told by the officer in charge that he could go and complain, but that nothing would come from it.
Later that night, Cardoso was treated at a local clinic and given painkillers.
The next day, the journalist filed a complaint with the Milange police station. The police officer in charge refused to register his complaint, arguing that Cardoso could not identify the agents who beat him, according to the journalist. Cardoso said he could not identify the officers because they yelled at him not to stare at them.
“It took six hours of waiting and the arrival of a higher-ranking officer for the afternoon shift for us to able to make the complaint,” the journalist said. CPJ reviewed a copy of that complaint.
Xadeque Mathala, the radio coordinator at Thumbine, accompanied Cardoso to file the complaint.
“Even though this is the first time that it got this far, intimidation and threats against journalists in the province are frequent, and violence from authorities towards the media worsens in election years,” Mathala told CPJ via message app, in reference to local elections scheduled for October.
Laurino Luis Omar, commander of the Milange border police, told CPJ via phone call that, to his knowledge, “Cardoso was not working at the time of the incident and might have been under the influence of alcohol, so the officers tried to secure his safety.” Omar added that the investigation of the case remains ongoing.
Cardoso told CPJ that he had not been drinking.
A clerk at the Milange prosecutor’s office, who did not want to be identified, confirmed via phone that the office is reviewing the case.
CPJ has documented the detention or beating of more than a dozen journalists by Mozambican authorities since 2021.