171122E – COURT ORDERS PROVISIONAL RELEASE OF JOURNALIST
Maputo, 4 Nov (AIM) – The court in Balama district, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, on Thursday ordered the provisional release of journalist Arlindo Chissale, detained five days earlier on charges of collecting information in order to foment terrorism.
According to the Mozambique chapter of the regional press freedom association MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa), he was arrested while photographing public institutions in Balama town. This is perfectly normal behaviour for a journalist, and there is no provision in Mozambican law, forbidding citizens, journalists or not, from photographing public buildings.
Nonetheless, Chissale was incarcerated for five days in the Balama police cells. He was interrogated and then the local magistrate decided the grounds for preventive detention had not been met, and so he should be provisionally released. But he did not throw out the charges.
According to “Mediafax”, the spokesperson for the Cabo Delgado provincial prosecutor’s office, Gilroy Fazenda, said that Chissale had been detained, not as a journalist, but as a citizen because he had committed “suspicious acts”. He was detained “in connection with the crime of terrorism”, said Fazenda, “particularly the collection of information for the practice of terrorist acts”.
He was arrested, Fazenda continued, because “he was suspicious of the fact that the journalist wanted to reserve all the rooms in a pension, which would be occupied by his work colleagues”.
So the justification for the detention had suddenly changed. It no longer had anything to do with photography but was linked to hotel reservations – again, there is nothing in Mozambican legislation limiting the number of room reservations a citizen may make.
Chissale is a free-lance journalist who runs the newssheet “Pinnacle News”, widely regarded as a reliable source on the fight against jihadist terrorism in Cabo Delgado.
One of the country’s foremost editors and journalists, Tomas Vieira Mario, was outraged by the detention. Taking to Facebook, he declared “It is unbelievable that there are still agents of the defence and security forces of our state who think that public buildings cannot be photographed because these images might be delivered to the enemy”.
They seemed unaware that “in the digital age, there is no way to hide any public place from anybody”. Using search engines such as Google, said Vieira Mario, anybody can easily obtain images of places deemed sensitive, including presidential palaces, and military barracks. Detaining journalists for taking such photographs, he added, “shows either ignorance or fear of daylight”.
(AIM / AIMENG)