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Mozambique: Crackdown on journalists reporting on Cabo Delgado

December 17, 2020

By Joseph Hanlon

Nasty attacks are increasing against journalists who report on Cabo Delgado and are critical of government, after President Nyusi criticised reporting of the war on 25 November. (See Bulletin 509, 3 Dec)

Tom Bowker, editor of Zitamar, had his press card revoked on 9 December, in an apparently unprecedented action. But the procedure was totally irregular. He was summoned to the government media office (Gabinfo) by phone. As Zitamar is a British registered company, Gabinfo demanded his British press registration, and simply did not believe that Britain (like the US) has no media registration. So they cancelled his press card. Everything was done verbally, with nothing in writing, which is highly irregular. The revocation of the press card has already provoked some diplomatic response – in part because embassies read and use Zitamar.

But it also seems harassment. Zitamar is part of the group publishing Cabo Ligado, the weekly report on the Cabo Delgado civil war. And Bowker recently started The Week in Mozambique, with an emphasis on media freedom issues.

Since the Nyusi speech, Facebook attacks have increased from a group that was once the G40 attack dogs savaging the critics of Armando Guebuza when he was president, and have become the praise singers of Nyusi.

Lenon Arnaldo cited the Nyusi statement as he led an attack on a Carta de Mocambique journalist Omardine Omar, accusing him of “lying/misleading news”. Comments on the Facebook post included these from “Alen Maia”: “We will deal with your threats to the security of young Mozambique. Lower the volume of your propaganda against state security … Omardine Omar: If you suffer an accident, the country will not notice you missing. As a terrorist you are aware of this. We know how to deal with terrorists.”

Leading praise singer Egidio Vaz attacked Bower: “Tom, go home. This is not your country. Why do you insist on staying in a country just to profit by selling lies and misery? Go to your country, where everything’s good. Work there. Wouldn’t that be better?” Lenon Arnaldo went on to attack Bowker for having “cheated everything and everyone.”

The attacks also included false information. Omar was accused of a conviction for unpaid debts (someone of a different name) and Zitamar of not being a registered company in the UK (in fact listed on the Companies House website as a “news agency”).

Juliao Joao Cumbane went on to attack Carta editor Marcelo Mosse for defending Bowker: “Freedoms of the press and expression have limits. Mozambique is a sovereign state. Combating terrorism in Cabo Delgado is our task, we Mozambicans.”

These Facebook attacks on Mozambique media set an important agenda. Journalists and commentators first attacked on Facebook have been beaten and shot. The offices of Canal de Mocambique were destroyed in an arson attack in August.

(Zitamar has identified Egidio Vaz as the man behind the Ministry of Defence supporting defense propaganda website. But in a note to me on 11 Dec, Vaz denies this)

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