Maputo, 13 Oct (AIM) – The Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) has condemned the attacks against journalists, and the restrictions of press freedom that occurred during the municipal elections held on Wednesday.
A statement issued by MISA noted that a cameraman with the TV station, Televisao Academica, Leonardo Limane, was attacked and injured by members of the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR – the Mozambican equivalent of the riot police) in the central city of Beira because he was filming a group of people who were refusing to leave a polling station in the neighbourhood of Munhava.
The police attack left Limane with a sprained ankle and unable to walk unaided. The doctors told him he should rest for 15 days while recovering from the assault.
Three other reporters from Televisao Academica who were visiting Beira polling stations while the votes were being counted were threatened by members of the UIR, who were in an armoured vehicle and accompanied by police dogs.
When the reporters told the police they were just doing their jobs, the UIR men replied, according to MISA, that “they were not there to negotiate, but to act, and, if necessary, they were willing to kill”.
In Maputo, a team from the independent station TV Sucesso was illegally forbidden from covering the count at a polling station in the Polana Canico neighbourhood.
When the polling station staff (MMVs) saw that the reporter Coutinho Macanandze had entered the room, they closed the door, shutting him inside, and prevented his cameraman Valdo Massingue from joining him.
Inside the room Macanandze was assaulted, despite his insistence that the electoral law allows journalists to cover the count. Eventually he managed to open the door, and escape from any further beating.
Three policemen were outside, watched the assault, and took no measures to stop it.
Also in Maputo, a journalist from one of the publicly-owned media, who requested anonymity, told MISA that, at a polling station installed in the Polana Secondary School, the MMVs prevented him from covering the count. After much insistence, he was allowed into the room, but forbidden from taking any photos.
In the central city of Quelimane, a police officer seized his working equipment from Luis Simindila, a reporter on the station Radio Zambezia FM, in the middle of an interview with a Renamo polling monitor, who had gone to the police station to denounce a case of ballot papers found outside the ballot boxes. Instead of taking an interest in this crime, the police agent seized Simindila’s microphone and mobile phone.
Also in Quelimane, a reporter from the catholic station Nova Radio Paz was prevented from covering the count. The chairperson of this polling station was one of those who violated the electoral law by refusing to sign the minutes of the results.
MISA strongly condemned “these flagrant acts of aggression and intimidation against journalists”, which “constitute attacks on press freedom”. It recalled that Mozambican law guarantees that journalists should have free access to public places, and public events. Electoral acts, including counting the votes, MISA added, are public and worthy of journalistic coverage.
MISA also repudiated “the indifference and near complicity” shown by police officers, despite their duty to protect citizens.