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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.
“Freedom of expression is currently under severe strain in Mozambique,” said Ine Van Severen, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “Several outspoken civil society organisations and media outlets have had their offices broken into with impunity in what appears to be a targeted crackdown on dissent.”
On 28 October 2016, the offices of the Mozambican organisation JOINT- League of NGOs in Mozambique were ransacked by unidentified perpetrators. All equipment including computers, cameras, phones, external disks, flash discs and folders with documents was stolen. Prior to this, CSO leaders had received death threats. JOINT and the Platform for Rights and Hope have been active in mobilising demonstrations and coordinating protest marches to highlight rights violations in the country. It has also been active in organising and strengthening civil society platforms on citizens’ rights at the provincial and national level.
Earlier, in September 2016, another CSO, League of Human Rights was the victim of a similar break-in. The president of the organisation also received death threats in the run-up to a civil society-led march, on 18 June 2016. The march aimed at demanding government accountability and solutions to the proclaiming of certain debts as public debts under questionable circumstances, resolution of political and military conflict, and condemnation of human rights violations.
Between 29 October and 1 November 2016, the offices of the weekly newspaper Malacha, and two local radio stations Dom Bosco and Cateme in the province of Tete also suffered break ins and robberies. All three outlets are well-known for their impartial reporting on the current political and military conflict in the region as well as on official corruption. Earlier in June this year, the director and editor of the weekly newspaper Zambezia, João Chamussa and Egídio Plácido, were detained and interrogated by the Criminal Investigation Unit of the police, defying normal legal procedures, on account of an article the newspaper published.
There have also been several politically motivated killings and assassination attempts against dissenting voices in the recent past. In May 2016, José Jaime Macuane, professor at the Eduardo Mondlane University and political commentator on STV television was abducted for a short while and injured by firearms. In August 2015, journalist Paulo Machava was killed in a drive-by shooting by unknown assailants. Earlier that year, constitutional lawyer Gilles Cistac, was killed in the capital Maputo in broad daylight, allegedly for making critical comments on sensitive political questions such as regional autonomy, a demand of RENAMO, the main opposition political party.
CIVICUS urges the Government of Mozambique to take concrete steps to create an enabling environment for civil society and the media. These include (i) publicly condemning attacks on civil society activists, journalists and their organisations, (ii) ensuring thorough investigations with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice, and (iii) eliciting the views of civil society and the media on how to better ensure their physical security.
For further information please contact:
Rosie Slater, Communications Officer