Mozambican authorities must investigate a recent police assault on journalists, hold those responsible to account, and ensure that members of the media are able to report without reprisal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On June 29, Simão Mugas and Faizal Abudo, reporters with the private online broadcaster TV Muniga, Leonardo Gimo and Edmilson Luis, reporters with the private TV channel TV Sucesso, and Emerson Joaquim, director of private online broadcaster Afro TV, were reporting on the alleged police beating of activists at a police station in Nampula, the capital of northeastern Nampula Province, when police shoved them out of the station, according to news reports and Mugas, Abudo, Gimo, and Joaquim, who spoke to CPJ via phone. The police then punched, kicked, and slapped Mugas and dragged Abudo back into the station, where they punched and kicked him while the other journalists fled, Mugas and Abudo told CPJ.
CPJ called Luis but he did not pick up; Gimo told CPJ that Luis is on assignment in an area out of cellular phone range.
“The use of force by police against journalists who are simply doing their jobs is outrageous and Mozambican authorities must ensure that this incident is investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. “Police officers must not be given free rein to abuse their office and censor scrutiny of their actions without consequences.”
Abudo, Gimo, and Joaquim told CPJ they went to the police station to cover the detention of activists who denounced alleged police brutality of street vendors.
At the station they were told to wait as the police commander was still busy questioning the activists, the journalists told CPJ. When the activists emerged, they alleged to the journalists that police had beaten them, the journalists said.
“I instinctively began to film even though we were still inside the police station,” Mugas said.
When police noticed that he was filming they began shouting at him and Abudo and pushed and shoved the five journalists out of the police station, Mugas said.
About 12 policemen surrounded them outside, he said. “I saw two officers over Abudo and two came after me to get the camera.”
When the police realized that the journalists’ cameras were still rolling, they became more aggressive, Mugas said. “They punched, kicked and slapped me on my back and head, before I managed to run away,” he said.
Abudo told CPJ he was repeatedly beaten by one of the officers who kicked and punched him on the hips, back, and head. He said one of the officers told him that if Mozambique’s first president Samora Machel was still in power, he would have beaten him to death.
Gimo told CPJ that police surrounded Mugas and Luis and tried to seize their cameras. Luis handed over his camera to police who deleted part of the footage at the station before returning it several hours later, said Gimo.
Police confiscated TV Muniga’s microphone and later returned it, Abudo said.
Abudo went to the hospital and was prescribed painkillers for his hip and headaches, according to the journalist and a doctor’s prescription CPJ reviewed. Mugas did not seek medical care, he told CPJ.
Reached by CPJ via phone, municipal police spokesperson Zaida Nampuio said that only the commander could comment on the incident and asked CPJ to call back. She did not answer subsequent calls.
Quoted in the U.S.-Congress funded Voice of America, municipal police commander António Maneque defended the conduct of the police, saying they had acted “involuntarily” after journalists filmed inside the station against the rules, and that the journalists had no proof that they were beaten.