[All links lead to Portuguese language pages except when otherwise noted.]
Mozambique is a country with a few superbloggers and little else to report in terms of consistent expression on the open internet. With dramatic growth of Facebook (via mobile), one brave personality has risen to the fore in this walled, blue and white world.
Edgar Barroso is a 28 year old civil servant in life who has over 1.800 friends on Facebook as the “Apóstolo da Desgraça” (literally meaning the Apostle of Disgrace, a tongue-in-cheek name for those who never tire of denouncing the state of things and a reference to contemporary Mozambican literature). He has become one of the most influential online personalities in Mozambique, using the platform as a kind of blog.
The Apóstolo has friends in every province of the country – where there are mobiles accessing Facebook, it is safe to assume his updates are read. His posts regularly get over 40 comments, sometimes over 150. He has left his profile open so that it remains a fairly public forum.
The “Apostle” has become a sparring partner and friend of journalists – mostly for his comical and critical running commentary on politics and the ruling elite.
The Apostle has raised the hackles of the ruling party Frelimo (in power since independence in 1975), especially during the recent by-elections in three northern cities. He helped amplify the voices of citizens who commented on the campaign, by sharing and reposting their photos and on-the-ground comments.
Three days prior to the December 7 polls, when the crucial city of Quelimane was under serious dispute by the opposition – see our coverage [en]) Apóstolo shared a letter/post on Facebook which he entitled “CARTA ABERTA AOS MEUS IRMÃOS DE QUELIMANE (por favor, imprimam e espalhem este texto ao maior número possível de eleitores)” or “Open letter to my brothers of Quelimane (please, print and spread this text to the maximum number of voters)”
É impossível olhar para a cidade e fingir que está tudo bem. Não é o secretário do partido, o ministro tal ou o deputado fulano, que nunca residiram nesta cidade, que saberão mais do que nós mesmos o que é melhor para a nossa terra. Estranhemos a razão de hoje eles estarem todos em Quelimane e de terem largado as suas extra-terrestres mordomias, protocolos e regalias, apenas para pisarem o mercado sujo e mal cheiroso onde vendemos e passamos grande parte da nossa vida, implorando-nos o voto e nos prometendo um futuro paradisíaco que nunca nos foram capazes de proporcionar nestes anos todos que estiveram à frente do município. Onde estavam eles até há um mês atrás?
He posted a number of videos by protest hip hop artist Azagaia in the lead-up to the election, urging his friends to go out and vote, including “Combatentes de Fortuna” (Soldiers of Fortune) and “Povo no Poder” (People in Power).
The Apostle has been bold in his confrontation with ruling party spokespeople online, often citing them by name. In a country where such political expression is limited only the pages of small independent newspapers, this behavior is quite frontal and has exposed him personally.
The death threat
In the days following the loss of the ruling party in the Quelimane mayoral election, Barroso received an extended threat via SMS on his personal mobile. Posting the number that sent the message, he quoted it in its entirety for his readers to comment on.
“EDGAR BARROSO, ED MALUCO OU APOSTOLO DA DESGRACA…. Esperamos que no ano que se aproxima , CONTROLES tudo o que vais escrever… Cuida da tua vida, da tua familia, teu empreguinho, trata de construir uma familia e NAO TE ENGANES COM AS AMIZADES porque gracas a elas sabemos teus passos todos. […]
Within hours, there were almost 200 comments on this threat, the vast majority very supportive. One ruling party troll attacked him and his friends did not hesitate to defend him.
The Apostle responded defiantly to the threat, saying that he would be even more outspoken, that he was not scared to be killed or lose his job, and that he knew who was responsible for the threat. He wrote
Você (ou vocês) meteram-se com o gajo errado. Eu sou o Edgar, não sou nenhum parvo. Da mesma forma que coloquei a OJM ou o CNJ em coma é do mesmo modo que colocarei, eu e os demais servos do povo que comungam dos mesmos princípios e valores comigo, o vosso sistema de mentiras, trafulhices, podridão, hipocrisia, crime e derivados em MORTE NATURAL (OU INDUZIDA).
You are messing with the wrong guy. I am Edgar, I am not just any old idiot. In the same way that I put the OJM (Organization of Mozambican Youth) and CNJ (National Youth Council) [both youth wings of Frelimo] into a coma, I will, alongside those other servants of the people who share the same principles and values, bring your system of lies, tricks, rot, hypocrisy, crimes and derivatives to its NATURAL (OR INDUCED) DEATH.
After the threat, he reports he was interviewed for the first time Mozambican TV, proof of that the Apostle is not planning on going away quietly any time soon.