Journalists (left to right) Ernesto Martinho, Jorge Marcos, and Atanázio Amade have all been recently harassed or assaulted by Mozambican authorities while covering pre-election events. (Photos: Courtesy of Ernesto Martinho, Precious Marcos, and Atanázio Amade)

At least 5 journalists harassed or assaulted covering pre-election events in Mozambique

New York, June 7, 2024 – Mozambican authorities should investigate the harassment and assault of at least five journalists covering election-related events since March, and take concrete steps to ensure the press can freely and safely report on matters of crucial public interest leading up to the country’s October general elections, said the Committee to Protect Journalists on Friday.

On May 16, in Mozambique’s central Zambézia province, about 10 private security guards assaulted and threatened STV reporter Jorge Marcos and camera operator Verson Paulo at a Renamo opposition party event, according to the two journalists, a statement by the Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), and video footage of the incident reviewed by CPJ.

The police were also there but did nothing, Marcos said, and Paulo added that his camera was damaged in the incident.

Marcos said that the private security officers also yelled insults and accused them of working for Venâncio Mondlane, a challenger to presidential hopeful Ossumo Momade, leader of the opposition Renamo party, in October’s election.

Three private security officers interrupted TV Sucesso reporter Ernesto Martinho and camera operator Valdo Massingue during a May 5 live report from a school in the capital of Maputo, where the ruling Frelimo party was holding a congress to elect its next presidential candidate, according to the MISA statement and the journalists, who spoke to CPJ.

Frelimo has governed the country and nominated all of its presidents since the country became independent in 1975. Its current president, Filipe Nyusi, is term-limited and will leave office after the upcoming national election.

The private security officers expelled both journalists from the school grounds, told Martinho that he was banned from covering the event, and threatened to also ban all TV Sucesso journalists. Martinho said that a security officer briefly confiscated his microphone, and Valdo said that security personnel also tried to confiscate his camera.

“Mozambique’s October 2024 elections will be pivotal, and political parties must not be allowed to dictate what information reaches the public domain by harassing and intimidating journalists,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator, Muthoki Mumo, in Nairobi. “Mozambican authorities, as well as the leadership of the Frelimo and Renamo parties, must hold those responsible to account for attacks on at least five journalists covering election-related events.”

On March 28, journalist Atanázio Amade was arrested while he was covering the voter registration process in the northern Nampula province, after a Frelimo party official alleged that the journalist did not have the proper credentials to be present, according to the journalist who spoke to CPJ and the MISA statement.

Amade, who works with the community radio Ehale, said that he was taken to a local station where the national police’s district commander Américo Francisco, and directors with Mozambique’s Information and National Security Service (SISE) and the Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC), forced him to delete footage of voters waiting in long queues to register and told him that he “was infringing the law and committing fraud because he was monitoring the electoral registration without special authorization.” Amade said he did not know the names of the SISE and SERNIC directors.

Renamo spokesperson José Manteigas and Frelimo spokesperson Ludmila Maguni did not respond to CPJ’s phone calls or messages. Rosa Chaúque, spokesperson of the police in Nampula told CPJ via phone that she would look into the incident involving Amade and get back to CPJ. Chaúque did not answer several subsequent calls or messages.

Emina Tsimine, spokesperson for Sernic, told CPJ via message app that Amade did not identify himself before taking photos at the registry posts and that electoral posts have “heightened levels of security.” She added that Sernic and SISE “merely made the journalist aware of the need to identify himself to avoid these situations” and that both police forces took 20 minutes to speak to him to ascertain his identity, not being responsible for the journalist being held for five hours.

SISE representatives could not be reached for comment.