• Civil Society “Contested and Under Pressure”, says new report

    Read this press release in Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish

    Civil society around the globe is “contested and under pressure” according to a 22-country research findings report released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The report, Contested and Under Pressure: A Snapshot of the Enabling Environment of Civil Society in 22 Countries, brings together insights from Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA) conducted around the world between 2013 and 2016.


  • Country recommendations on civic space for Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS makes joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on civil society space in Mozambique, Niger, Paraguay and Singapore

    The United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States once every 4.5 years.

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on four countries to the UN Human Rights Council in advance of the 38th UPR session (April-May 2021). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the second UPR cycle over 4-years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    Mozambique- CIVICUS and JOINT – Liga das ONG em Moçambique examine and raise concerns on the deteriorating environment in which journalists and civil society activists operate. Physical attacks, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and threats have become increasingly common, especially for civil society activists and journalists working or reporting on sensitive issues such as the Cabo election monitoring, transparency and accountability, election monitoring, transparency and accountability and corruption.

    Niger (French) - CIVICUS, the West African Human Rights Defenders Network and the Nigerien Network of Human Rights Defenders highlight the level of implementation of the recommendations of received by Niger during its previous review in 2016. Despite constitutional guarantees on freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and association, the Nigerien government has targeted human rights defenders and subjected them to arbitrary arrests and judicial persecution. Peaceful assemblies are repressed and bans are imposed on planned protests while journalists are detained for reporting on issues affecting the state. Restrictive legislation like the 2019 Cyber Crimes Law are used to prosecute representatives of civil society.

    Paraguay (Spanish) - CIVICUS and Semillas para la Democracia address concerns regarding the growing hostility, stigmatisation and criminalisation faced by HRDs, and particularly by the members of peasant, Indigenous, trade union and student movements, as well as by journalists reporting on protests, organised crime, corruption and human rights abuses. Along with the restrictions on the freedom of expression that result from the use of criminal defamation statutes and economic pressures from both private and public actors, the submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled in the streets, as protests are prevented through the application of legislation imposing undue time and place restrictions and authorisation requirements, protesters are criminalised under the Penal Code, and demonstrations are violently suppressed by the security forces.

    CIVICUS y Semillas para la Democracia abordan sus preocupaciones relativas a las crecientes hostilidad, estigmatización y criminalización que enfrentan las personas defensoras de derechos humanos, y en particular las que integran los movimientos campesino, indígena, sindical y estudiantil, así como los periodistas que reportan acerca de protestas, crimen organizado, corrupción y violaciones de derechos humanos. Además de las restricciones de la libertad de expresión derivadas de la aplicación de estatutos de difamación penal y de presiones económicas de actores tanto privados como públicos, el documento examina las múltiples formas en que el disenso es ahogado en las calles, en la medida en que las protestas son impedidas mediante la aplicación de legislación que impone restricciones indebidas de tiempo y lugar y requisitos de autorización, los manifestantes son criminalizados bajo el Código Penal, y las manifestaciones son violentamente suprimidas por las fuerzas de seguridad.

    Singapore - CIVICUS and The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) highlight ongoing use of restrictive laws, including defamation laws, to criminalise criticism of the authorities by HRDs and critics and the draconian restrictions on peaceful assembly. It also documents new laws that have been deployed to restrict media freedom and freedom of expression online and to harass the political opposition, journalists and civil society.

    Civic space in Mozambique, Niger, Paraguay, and Singapore are rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

    See all of our UPR submissions here.


  • Mozambique NGOs battle for free civic space

    To read this in Portugese, click here.

    In this anonymous interview, CIVICUS speaks to a civil society activist in Mozambique concerning the environment for civil society and human rights defenders in the country. There is growing concern that killings and acts of intimidation against critical voices often go unpunished.


  • Mozambique: Killing of activist Dr. Matavel & restrictions on civic space mar upcoming elections


    Open letter to the Government of Mozambique

    Your Excellency,

    We, the undersigned orgnisations, are deeply alarmed by the escalating crackdown on fundamental freedoms and the persecution of activists in the context of the upcoming presidential, legislative and provincial elections scheduled for 15 October 2019 in Mozambique. The recent spate of killings, intimidation and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and journalists, particularly those involved in election monitoring, including Dr. Anastácio Matavel, gravely undermines the possibility of free and fair elections. We urge the authorities to take all necessary steps to end the pre-election campaign to suppress independent dissent.

    President Filipe Nyusi is seeking a second five-year term in the upcoming elections. The vote comes just two months after Nyusi and the opposition Renamo party signed a permanent cease-fire meant to stop the fighting that has flared sporadically in the 27 years since the end of a 15-year civil war that killed an estimated 1 million people and devastated the country.

    The space for civil society in Mozambique has significantly deteriorated since October 2018 municipal elections. Most recently, on 7 October 2019 Human Rights Defender Dr. Anastácio Matavel was brutally murdered. Dr. Matavel was killed after he attended a training session for election observers. A group of five individuals, four of whom are active police officers, unloaded at least 10 live rounds on Dr. Matavel's vehicle. He died in hospital at the age of 58.

    Dr. Matavel was the founder and Executive Director of FONGA-Gaza NGO Forum and chairman of the General Assembly of JOINT Liga of NGOs in Mozambique. The murder of Dr. Matavel is a direct attack on civil society for undertaking its legitimate activities to engage in election observation.  Dr. Matavel believed fair and free elections are a key factor for the consolidation of peace, democracy and human rights necessary for the development of Mozambique.

    In March 2018, journalist and human rights lawyer, Ericino de Salema was abducted and beaten by unidentified individuals. There have been no arrests in the case and no one has been held accountable for the attack. There remain ongoing harassment and intimidation of journalists with critical views.  On 5 January 2019 journalist Amade Abubacar was arrested without a warrant by police officers of Macomia district, while interviewing villagers fleeing from insurgent attacks. Amade was held in pre-trial detention for nearly 100 days, including 12 days in incommunicado military detention. Amade is currently awaiting trial.

    A vibrant civil society is key for any democracy to thrive. Such brutal attacks and targeted persecution of a member of civil society should be condemned in the most rigorous way. We call for a prompt and impartial investigation to ensure justice for Dr. Matavel and all civil society activists who have been targeted for exercising their right to independent dissent. These and other unwarranted restrictions on civic space deeply mar upcoming elections and raise the specter of further entrenching democratic backsliding. 


    1. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    2. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    3. CIVICUS
    4. Civil Rights Defenders
    5. Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
    6. FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    7. Front Line Defenders
    8. Groupe d'Action pour le Progrès et la Paix (G.A.P.P.-Afrique) (Canada, France, Bénin et Mali)
    9. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    10. Southern Africa Litigation Centre
    11. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
    12. Oxfam
    13. Odhikar – Bangladesh
    14. L'organisation Tchadienne Anti-corruption (OTAC) – Chad
    15. Justice and Peace Netherlands
    16. JOINT Liga de ONGs em Mocambique 
    17. JASS (Just Associates)
    18. Japan NGO Action Network for Civic Space (NANCiS) Charter
    19. Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC)
    20. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defender               


  • Mozambique's Adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    Statement at 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Universal Periodic Review outcome adoption of Mozambique

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    Thank you, Madame President.

    We welcome Mozambique’s engagement with the UPR process, and its acceptance of 24 recommendations relating to civic space.

    However, during its last UPR cycle, while Mozambique received 13 civic space recommendations, nine of these were not implemented. CIVICUS and JOINT – Liga das ONG em Moçambique are deeply concerned by the unwarranted restrictions on the freedom of expression and the deteriorating environment in which journalists and civil society activists operate. Physical attacks, intimidation and harassment are becoming increasingly common.

    In August 2020, the headquarters of media outlet Canal de Moçambique was broken into and set on fire with petrol bombs. The media outlet had previously investigated and reported on corruption and the armed conflict in Cabo Delgado.

    Physical attacks, intimidation and harassment of journalists and civil society activists have become increasingly common. Community radio journalist Ibraimo Abu Mbaruco’s whereabouts are still unknown since his disappearance in April 2020 in Palma, Cabo Delgado. In his last text message, he reportedly said he was “surrounded by the military”. In October 2019, Anastácio Matavel, civil society activist and founder and director of FONGA-Gaza NGO Forum, was shot and killed in Xai-Xai, Gaza Province, after attending a training session on election monitoring.

    We regret that Mozambique did not accept recommendations related to access to conflict zones by civil society and the media and the registration of LGBTIQ associations. Authorities have denied CSOs and journalists access to work in and report from areas affected by the armed insurgency in Cabo Delgado and neighbouring provinces where there is a heightened presence of internally displaced people.

    The Associação Moçambicana para a Defesa das Minorias Sexuais, LAMBDA, an organisation working on sexual minority rights, has been denied a certificate of registration by the Minister of Justice since 2008, despite a ruling by the Constitutional Court in October 2017 stipulating that the clause invoked to deny its registration is unconstitutional.

    We call on Mozambique to further engage constructively with the UPR process by implementing the recommendations it has accepted, and we call on member states to hold Mozambique accountable for upholding its commitments.

    We thank you.

    Civic space in Mozambique is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • Open letter: Pope Francis' visit to Mozambique presents an opportunity to address human rights violations

    Read it in Portuguese | Italian


    Your Holiness, Pope Francis
    Apostolic Palace
    00120 Vatican City

    Re: Open letter on human rights to Pope Francis from Civil Society groups on his visit to Mozambique

    Your Holiness, Pope Francis

    We, the undersigned, are writing as a group of non-governmental organisations working to promote and defend human rights in many countries around the world, including Mozambique. Ahead of your visit to Mozambique scheduled to take place between 4 and 6 September 2019, we would like to bring to your attention a number of human rights issues of concern and to urge you to use your visit as an opportunity to publicly support our call for the protection and promotion of human rights particularly as the country prepares to hold its 6th general elections in October 2019, since the end of the civil war in 1992.

    We are gravely concerned by the increasing intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders, activists, civil society organisations and media, the deterioration of the human rights situation in Cabo Delgado, the lack of accountability, justice and effective remedies for victims of human rights violations and abuses as well as violations of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

    Crackdown on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and media freedom

    In the past year, there has been an increasing crackdown on dissent particularly the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of expression, and media freedom by the Mozambican government. Freedom of movement of Human Rights Defenders (HRD’s), political actors, journalists and civil society groups has also come under increasing attack.

    In the aftermath of the October 2018 municipal elections, several human rights defenders, civil society activists and local journalists received anonymous death threats, intimidating phone calls and messages. This was in apparent retaliation for their participation in the election process, which included monitoring polling stations and publishing live municipal elections results.[1]

    Among those targeted for their participation in monitoring the 2018 municipal election were priests Father Benvindo Tapua and Father Cantífulas de Castro, Director and Deputy Director of Radio Encontro respectively.[2] Journalists from Catholic run radio stations, Watana and Radio Encontro, were intimidated and harrassed. Others were assaulted, including a reporter for Miramar television station who was attacked by a member of the main opposition party, the Mozambique National Resistance’s (RENAMO), when he was covering a riot at the local RENAMO’s office in Chimoio, Manica province.[3]

    We have also seen repression by Mozambican authorities of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. From 21 to 24 January 2019, the police surrounded the office of the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), an independent civil society organisation, which launched a campaign against the repayment of alleged illegally acquired secret loans amounting to USD2.2 billion which were taken under former president Armando Guebuza. The police also ordered people to remove campaign T-shirts and CIP’s employees to stop distributing the T-shirts.[4]

    In March 2019, authorities disrupted one march and initially blocked another both in the capital Maputo. On March 1, police officers armed with rifles disrupted a march organized by a local primary school to mark the city’s annual carnival. Four days later, the mayor of Maputo rejected plans for Mozambique’s leading women’s rights group, Forum Mulher, to march against domestic violence on International Women’s Day.[5]

    We fear escalation of the crackdown and climate of repression of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and media freedom ahead of the forthcoming general elections.

    Human Rights violations and abuses in the Cabo Delgado province

    Since October 2017, the northern districts of Cabo Delgado province have experienced appalling attacks by individuals believed to be members of an armed group known as “Al-Shabaab”. The attackers have invaded villages, set houses on fire, hacked villagers to death with machetes and looted their food. In response, the government increased military presence in the region, however, the authorities’ response has been concerning. Security forces have reportedly intimidated, harassed, arbitrarily arrested and detained people on suspicion of belonging to the armed group. In addition, there are allegations of the detainees being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Deeply concerning are reports of cases of summary executions. Security forces have also intimidated, detained and even charged journalists and human right defenders and researchers who have been investigating the humanitarian crisis as well as the violations and abuses by state security forces.[6]

    On 5 January 2019, journalist Amade Abubacar was arrested by police officers of Macomia district without a warrant while he was interviewing villagers who had fled their homes due to intensified attacks carried out by individuals believed to be members of an armed group.[7] Amade was held in pre-trial detention for nearly 100 days, including 12 days in incommunicado military detention.[8] On 23 April, Amade was granted provisional release from Mieze prison in Pemba city.[9] He is still facing accusations of crimes of “public incitement through electronic media” and “incitement” and “injury against public officials”.[10]

    In December 2018, Estacio Valoi, an investigative journalist, and David Matsinhe, a researcher at Amnesty International, were arrested by the military and held incommunicado for two days in Mocímboa da Praia district, accused of spying and aiding and abetting the armed group “Al-Shabaab”. They were released without charges, but their equipment remains confiscated by the military for “further investigation.”[11] The area remains a virtual no-go area for the press, with negative implications for citizens’ right to know.

    Accountability and justice for victims of human rights violations and abuses

    We are very concerned about the continued impunity for human rights crimes, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment which has created an environment of public fear and insecurity. Several organizations have documented numerous cases which remain unresolved, including:

    On 8 October 2016, Jeremias Pondeca, a senior member of the Mozambique National Resistance opposition party (RENAMO) and was also part of the mediation team seeking to end the clashes between RENAMO and the government, was shot dead in Maputo by unknown men suspected of being part of a death squad composed of state security officers.[12]

    On 27 March 2018, unknown gunmen abducted human rights lawyer Ericino de Salema outside the offices of the Mozambican Union of Journalists in Maputo.[13] The men then beat and abandoned him on the Maputo Ring Road. As a result of the assault, Mr. Salema suffered serious fractures to his arms and legs. At the time of the attack, Mr. Salema was the resident political commentator on the television show, STV’s Pontos de Vista, on which he has often taken positions critical of the government’s policies. It is feared that the attack was likely in retaliation for his critical views in the course of his professional duties.

    On 4 October 2017, an unidentified gunman assassinated the then mayor of Nampula City, Mahamudo Amurane, at his home.[14] Since his election as mayor of Nampula in 2013, Mahamudo Amurane had embarked on a public quest to root out alleged corruption in the city’s administration and revitalize public infrastructure.

    Violations of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers

    Despite the government’s international commitment to respect and protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, we documented worrying reports of arbitrary arrests and deportation of refugees by the state security forces and immigration officers.

    On 17 January 2019, police and immigration officers arrested 15 refugees and asylum seekers (14 men and one woman) from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and one male refugee from Ethiopia who were at the time residing in Maratane Camp in Nampula province. According to their testimonies, they were arrested without a warrant, hand-cuffed and beaten. They were not immediately informed of the reasons for their arrest and detention.[15]

    The 16 refugees and asylum seekers are currently detained at the Third Police Station in Pemba. The 16 people have been held for more than seven months, and they have not been notified of the reason for their detention or of any criminal charges against them. They have also not been brought before a court. According to interviews conducted with the detainees by Amnesty International, they are being held in inhumane conditions. The detainees were forced to dig a hole in the police station’s patio to use as a toilet. They have been drinking possibly contaminated water that is yellow in colour from the cell’s sink. Sometimes those who can afford it pay someone to buy them bottled water.[16]

    On 23 January 2019, the government of Mozambique deported seven men from the group of 16 refugees and asylum seekers, who were originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They were not notified of a deportation order, nor were they permitted to challenge their deportation in court. According to testimony from the seven men, the immigration officers forced them to board a flight to Kinshasa, DRC. When they arrived at the Kinshasa airport, the immigration officer denied them entry and ordered their return to Mozambique. They were returned to Pemba city on 26 January and taken to the Third Police Station, where they are still being detained.

    In light of the above, we are calling on Your Holiness to raise these human rights concerns with the Government of Mozambique and request that the government immediately look into the matters and take concrete and meaningful steps to respect, protect, promote and fulfill human rights.

    In addition, we ask that Your Holiness reiterate to the government that it must ensure that members of civil society including journalists, researchers and lawyers can carry out their work freely and without fear of attacks, intimidation, harassment. The government must also ensure prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigations into cases of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention and other cases of human rights violations and abuses and that those suspected to be responsible are brought to justice in fair trials.

    We hope that Your Holiness’ visit to Mozambique presents a genuine opportunity to the government of Mozambique to reaffirm its commitment to upholding the human rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic, as well as the government’s regional and international human rights obligations and commitments.

    Thank you for your consideration of this letter.

    Yours Sincerely,

    African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX)

    Africans Rising

    Amnesty International


    Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

    Federation of Journalists of Portuguese Language (FJLP)

    Human Rights Watch


    International Press Institute (IPI)


    Parlamento Juvenil – Moçambique

    Reporters Sans Frontiers

    Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)

    Solidariedade Moçambique (SOLDMOZ-ADS)



    [1] Amnesty International (19 October 2018) Mozambique: Journalists and Activists Threatened – AFR 41/9263/2018. Available at: Amnesty International (17 October 2018) Mozambique: Journalists and activists face death threats and intimidation in post-election witch-hunt. Available at:

    [2] Amnesty International (19 October 2018) Mozambique: Journalists and Activists Threatened – AFR 41/9263/2018.Available at:

    [3] All Africa (3 May 2019) Mozambique: Misa warns of deteriorating press freedom.Available at:

    [4] Amnesty International (29 January 2019) Mozambique: Woman human rights defender facing threats online: Fátima Mimbire.Available at:

    [5] Human Rights Watch (13 March 2019) Armed police break up Mozambique Children’s march – Women’s day protest proceeds after initial ban.Available at:

    [6] Human Rights Watch (4 December 2018) Mozambique: Security forces abusing suspected insurgents. Available at:

    American Bar Association (11 April 2019) Mozambique: Effective counter-terrorism strategies do not include arresting journalists. Available at:

    [7] Amnesty International (11 January 2019) Mozambique: Journalist Arbitrarily detained incommunicado: Amade Abubacar. Available:

    [8] Amnesty International (5 February 2019) Mozambique: Further Information: Detained journalist denied family visits: Amade Abubacar. Available:

    [9] Reporters Without Borders (23 April 2019) Two Mozambican journalists freed after being held for months. Available at:

    [10] Amnesty International (19 August 2019) Mozambique: Further information: Journalist awaits prosecutor’s decision: Amade Abubacar. Available at:

    [11] Committee to Protect Journalists, Mozambican journalist arrested, held in military prison,9 January 2019. Available:

    [12] Human Rights Watch (11 October 2016) Mozambique: Prominent opposition leader killed. Available at:

    [13] Committee to Protect Journalists (28 March 2018) Mozambique journalist abducted, assaulted. Available at:

    [14] Amnesty International (5 October 2017) Mozambique: Killing of anti-corruption mayor must be investigated.Available at:

    [15] Amnesty International, Mozambique: refugees, asylum seekers held arbitrarily, 13 June 2019. Available at:

    [16] Amnesty International, Mozambique: Further information: refugees, asylum seekers held without charge, 16 August 2019. Available at:


  • Worrying rise in attacks on CSOs and the media in Mozambique

    To read this in Portugese, click here.

    CIVICUS is extremely concerned about the rise in attacks on civil society organisations (CSOs), academics and journalists in Mozambique. Several activists and members of the media have recently faced various forms of intimidation, including death threats, harassment, assassination attempts and arbitrary detention for criticising the governance system, corruption and vhuman rights violations.