Mozambique: Authorities Must Promptly Investigate Arrest of Journalist While Covering Demonstration

Mozambican authorities must immediately investigate the arrest of journalist and human rights defender, Sheila Wilson, while she was broadcasting live from a demonstration on 4 June in the capital Maputo, Amnesty International and The Mozambique Human Rights Defenders Network (RMDDH) said today.

At the time of her arrest, Sheila was covering a demonstration outside the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) premises by former agents of the State Intelligence Service (ISNASP), who are demanding compensation they claim to have not received from the government for more than 20 years.

During the broadcast, on the Facebook page of the Centre for Development and Democracy (CDD), it was possible to hear the journalist screaming for help until she was taken away by the police to the 4th Police Station. During her arrest, Sheila was violently pushed to the back of the police’s vehicle and was injured in the head, as a result. She was released, with no charges, hours later and is back home.

Journalists from Soico Television (STV) who were also covering the demonstration, were physically attacked, allegedly by the police, and had their film camera seized when they were interviewing Mozambican Police spokesperson, Leonel Muchina.

“The arrest of Sheila, including the confiscation of the film camera from STV, provided a live showcase of the treatment that journalists face in Mozambique. It is a violation of the right to information, freedom of expression and opinion and it contributes to limiting the freedom of press,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

Her arrest, including the confiscation of the camera from STV, provided a live showcase of the treatment that journalists face in MozambiqueTigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director, East and Southern Africa

“The police’s actions, seen in videos supplied to Amnesty International and shared on social media, follow a disturbing pattern of reckless and unlawful tactics against journalists. Police must refrain from arbitrarily arresting, attacking and intimidating journalists or confiscating their equipment. The Mozambican authorities must conduct a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into Sheila’s arbitrary arrest and perpetrators must be brought to justice in a fair trial,” said Adriano Nuvunga, the president of the RMDDH.

The Mozambican authorities must conduct a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into Sheila’s arbitrary arrest and perpetrators must be brought to justice in a fair trialAdriano Nuvunga, President, RMDDH

Background

From 28 May to 4 June, about 200 former agents of SNASP held a sit-in at the UNDP headquarters in Maputo to demand compensation, which they claim was agreed as part of the General Peace Agreement, signed on 4 October 1992, between the Mozambican government and Renamo, the ex-rebel forces that fought against the Frelimo government after independence.

There is a pattern of intimidation of journalists by Mozambican authorities through arbitrary arrests, intimidation, enforced disappearances, and physical or verbal attacks. To date, authorities have failed to adequately investigate these violations and no one has been held accountable.

On 7 April 2020, Ibrahimo Abú Mbaruco, a human rights defender and journalist from Palma Community Radio, was forcibly disappeared while covering the ongoing conflict in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, which began in 2017. His whereabouts remain unknown. On 25 November 2023, the Rapid Intervention Police (Polícia de Intervenção Rápida-PIR) parked an armoured vehicle in front of TV Sucesso during the release of the official results of the municipal elections. More recently, on 19 February 2024, the governor of Cabo Delgado, Valige Tausabo, accused local journalists of discrediting the Defense and Security Forces (FDS) when reporting on attacks by terrorists in the province.