Mozambican journalists readily recognize that the climate for the press is much better in their country than it is for their colleagues in neighbouring countries. The start of 2003 was marked by the conviction of six persons for the murder of journalist Carlos Cardoso.
The Carlos Cardoso case was back in the spotlight in January 2003 when six defendants were sentenced to heavy prison terms. The outcome of the trial of Cardoso’s murderers reassured Mozambican civil society and the press as to judicial independence in this case.
During a fact-finding mission to Maputo in November, Reporters Without Borders was told by Augusto Paulino, the presiding judge: "I think we know much of the truth. It is hard to know everything in the world of organised crime. Other people are definitely implicated and there are probably one or two instigators still to be identified, but I am sure we will know the whole truth one day. It may take some time, but we will get there."
It was the first time in Africa that those responsible for killing a journalist were brought to trial and given heavy jail sentences. With the encouragement of the political authorities, the justice system must now go the rest of the way and do everything possible to expose and punish all of the instigators involved in this murder.
Mozambique must press on in order to show that impunity is not unavoidable in Africa, and to show the murderers of journalists who are still at large in Angola, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and elsewhere that they, too, will one day have to answer for their actions.
In another positive judicial development, a Maputo judge in October sentenced two Mozambicans to three months in prison for abducting reporter Cassimo Ginabay for several hours in April 2002. This was only the second time in five years that the authorities had punished individuals for attacks on journalists.
At a ceremony to install new members to the Supreme Mass Media Council (CSCS) in early March, President Joaquim Chissano deplored the tendency of journalists in Mozambique to prioritise "sensationalism and speculation" and deprive the public of objective information. He said diversity in news reporting could have a negative effect if competition pushed journalists into violating their professional code.
New information about a journalist killed before 2003
The special court that had been set up in Maputo to try the accused killers of Carlos Cardoso issued its verdicts on 31 January 2003. Five defendants were found guilty of homicide. They were businessman Momade Abdul Satar, who was sentenced to 24 years in prison, together with Ayob Abdul Satar (Momade’s brother), Vicente Ramaya, Manuel Fernandes and Carlos Rachid Cassamo, who each got 23 and a half years. A sixth defendant, Anibal Antonio dos Santos Junior, also known as "Anibalzinho," was sentenced in absentia to 28 years in prison and 15 years’ loss of civic rights. Anibalzinho, who had escaped from prison in September 2002, was caught by the South African police the day the verdict was announced and was immediately extradited to Mozambique to serve his sentence.
On several occasions during the trial, two of the defendants accused the president’s eldest son, Nyimpine Chissano, of being the real instigator of the murder. President Chissano had said at the outset that justice had to be done in Mozambique and the "trial must go on," even if his son had been named. Attorney-general Joaquim Madeira announced in late December 2002 that there would be an additional enquiry to determine whether Nyimpine Chissano had any role in Cardoso’s death. During its fact-finding visit in November 2003, Reporters Without Borders was told by Madeira that this enquiry was "closer to the end than the beginning." In a report entitled: "Three years after Carlos Cardoso’s murder, the identity of all those involved is still unknown," Reporters Without Borders stressed that at least one if not two of the murder’s instigators were still at large.
The editor of Metical, a daily newspaper, Cardoso was gunned down on 22 November 2000 on Avenue Martires de Machava in Maputo. He had just left his office in his car, with his driver, when two men blocked their way and opened fire. Cardoso was hit in the head and died instantly. His driver was seriously injured. Prior to his death, Cardoso had been probing the country’s biggest financial scandal since independence - the embezzlement of 14 million euros from the privatisation of Mozambique’s Banco Commercial. He had named three very influential businessmen in his reports: the Satar brothers and Vicente Ramaya.
A journalist imprisoned
Amin Nordine, a correspondent with the privately-owned newspaper Vertical, was arrested in the central city of Beira on 23 April 2003 for allegedly insulting police officers who asked to see his papers. After a night in the police station, he was transferred to Beira prison. On 29 April, he was given a sentence of two months in prison that was commuted to a fine of 4 millions meticals (about 150 euros).
Two journalists detained
José Armando Chitula, the editor of the daily Imparcial, was arrested on 30 June 2003 shortly after interviewing Armando Guebuza, the secretary-general of the ruling Frelimo party at Maputo airport. A judge questioned him about the interview before releasing him the next day.
Salvador Januario of Radio Mozambique was detained on 8 November by supporters of Renamo (the main opposition party) in the northern province of Cabo Delgado and interrogated for two days because he had said in one of his reports that Renamo activists had destroyed leaflets distributed by other parties.
Two journalists threatened
Rui de Carvalho of the daily Mediafax received anonymous phone calls on 5 March 2003 warning him that if he did not stop the investigation he had been conducting for the past few months into illegal land sales in Maputo, his family would suffer "a great misfortune." Carvalho had reported that a company called Zambeze Valley bought 200 hectares of land in the Guava region that was occupied by families who claimed to have acquired their plots legally.
Luis Nhachote of the weekly Savana received more than 30 calls on his mobile phone in August threatening him with reprisals if he did not stop writing his weekly column in the newspaper Phambeni in which he often urged President Chissano to put an end to impunity for drug traffickers in the Maputo region.
A journalist physically attacked
Ibraimo Assane, a correspondent for the daily Mediafax in Angoche (a coastal town in the north), was attacked by supporters of the ruling Frelimo party on 4 November 2003, during a local election campaign. Led by a local official, his assailants reportedly demanded to see his official accreditation, saying he could not stay if he did not have accreditation. Assane showed his press card and insisted that accreditation was unnecessary as the electoral campaign was public.
Harassment and obstruction
The supreme court threatened on 21 April 2003 to prosecute any news media that defamed it.
Jose Maria de Sousa, the court’s general secretary, said: "Articles are reporting erroneous information as part of campaign launched against the supreme court, the judiciary as a whole and certain judges." The weekly Zambeze was prosecuted for libel by supreme court president Mario Mangaze over an article accusing him of opposing a lower court’s decision in return for a bribe.
The hundreds of journalists present at the African Union’s second summit in Maputo on 10-12 July were barred from to covering the opening ceremony, were refused access to the building where the debates took place, and were unable to obtain any information about the way the summit was progressing. The security measures to which they were subjected were draconian.
Herminio Nhanombe of the state-owned television broadcaster TVM and Ruben Jossai of the weekly Savana were harassed by one of the bodyguards of opposition leader Afonso Dlakhama during a political rally in the south of the country on 7 October. The bodyguard threatened to confiscate their equipment if they shot any footage or took notes.