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Journalists faced obstacles covering elections in Mozambique, regional observer said

Photo of newspapers published in Mozambique | taken by Dércio Tsandzana and used with permission of the author – 23.08.2018

Journalists faced obstacles in covering the election campaign this year in Mozambique, according to the Institute for Media in Southern Africa, Mozambique chapter (MISA).

Mozambique held elections for president, provincial governors, and members of the Assembly of the Republic on 15 October. Partial results results point to a victory by the ruling party FRELIMO.

In a note shared by email on 12 September, MISA said journalists were prevented from covering political events by party members. The message said

Todos os casos foram registados na província de Nampula. O primeiro foi notificado na cidade de Nampula, na semana passada, quando um jornalista da Rádio Encontro foi impedido de cobrir a campanha eleitoral da Frelimo no Mercado da Antiga Gorongosa.

No dia 10 de Setembro, dois repórteres do grupo Soico, também em Nampula, foram ameaçados e impedidos de captar imagens da campanha da RENAMO, numa actividade de campanha eleitoral no Posto de controlo de Muahivire-Expansão. Os membros da Renamo alegaram que aqueles profissionais captavam imagens que no entanto não eram exibidas ao público.

All the cases were registered in Nampula Province. The first was signalled in Nampula City last week when a journalist from Radio Encontro was prevented from covering Frelimo's election campaign in the market of Old Gorongosa.

On 10 September, two reporters from the Soico group, also in Nampula, were threatened and prevented from taking pictures of RENAMO's campaign, at an electoral campaign event at the Muahivire-Expansão control centre. The Renamo members claimed that these professionals took photos that were not, however, permitted to the public.

After the accident that killed ten people at a FRELIMO rally in Nampula on 11 September, the police allegedly prevented journalists from taking photos and videos at the scene:

Jornal Notícias, a public information body partially funded by the state, highlighted that the RENAMO party prevented some journalists from covering their campaign in Manica province, in central Mozambique.

According to the newspaper, at an event Alfredo Magumisse, the party's candidate for the post of provincial governor, said:

Vieram para aqui, porque estão a ver que não temos muita gente. Onde temos tido muita participação, não aparecem. Mas quando são outros partidos, mostram à população. Orientei muitos comícios, onde havia muita gente, mas vocês não vieram. Podem regressar. Não vos queremos aqui.

They came here because, you can see, we don't have a lot of people. Where we've had high participation, they don't show up. But when it’s for other parties, they show the crowds. I organized many rallies, where there were many people, but you didn't come. You can go back. We don't want you here

MISA Mozambique’s 2018 report on press freedom in the country had already highlighted obstacles to journalism. There was a focus on Cabo Delgado province, hit by an Islamist insurgency.

Last year, journalist Estácio Valoi was arrested in the area while covering the conflict. The Amnesty International investigator David Matsinhe and his driver were also arrested.

O cerco foi apertado; a imprensa e a sociedade civil ficaram cada vez mais encurraladas, limitadas e com as liberdades controladas. A liberdade de imprensa e de expressão ficaram limitadas, tornando-se ariscado o seu exercício, através da instauração de um clima de medo, violência e temor contra os jornalistas e cidadãos.

The limits were tightened; press and civil society were increasingly cornered, restricted and had freedoms controlled. Freedom of the press and freedom of expression have been restricted and its exercise made more risky through a climate of fear, violence and anxiety against journalists and citizens.

It should be noted that in August 2018, new legislation increased the taxes paid by international and local media. The move that was criticized by NGOs and professional associations, who've seen it as an attempt to stifle journalist activity.

MISA's email note adds that the current electoral period comes with other challenges to media work:

O MISA Moçambique tomou conhecimento da existência de jornalistas que estão envolvidos activamente em actividades de partidos políticos sem que tenham renunciado às suas funções jornalísticas, o que os coloca numa clara situação de incompatibilidades.

É universalmente consensual que o exercício da profissão de jornalista é incompatível com o desempenho de: a) Funções de angariação, concepção ou apresentação, através de texto, voz ou imagem, de mensagens publicitárias; b) Funções de marketing, relações públicas, assessoria de imprensa e consultoria em comunicação ou imagem, bem como de planificação, orientação e execução de estratégias comerciais; c) Funções em serviços de informação e segurança ou em qualquer organismo ou corporação policial; d) Serviço militar; e) Exercício de cargos em órgãos de soberania ou de outros cargos políticos, de deputados ou membros das assembleias municipais f) Funções executivas, em regime de permanência, a tempo inteiro ou a meio tempo, em órgão autárquico.

MISA Mozambique has become aware of the existence of journalists who are actively involved in political party activities without having renounced their journalistic roles, which puts them in a clear conflict of interest.

It is universally agreed that the exercise of the profession of journalism is incompatible with the practice of: a) Roles of fundraising, design or presentation, through text, voice or image, of advertising messages; b) Roles of marketing, public relations, press office, and communications or image consultancy, as well as planning, directing and implementing commercial strategies; c) Roles in information and security services or in any police organisation or body; d) Military service; e) Exercise of positions in governing bodies or of other political positions, of deputies or members of municipal assemblies; f) Executive functions, on a permanent basis, on a full-time or part-time basis, in a municipal body

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