Mozambique
18.12.23
Urgent Interventions

Mozambique: Killing of prominent journalist João Chamusse

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

MOZ 001 / 1223 / OBS 046
Killing
Mozambique
December 18, 2023

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Mozambique.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the killing of prominent journalist João Chamusse, the co-owner and editor of electronic newspaper Ponto por Ponto and a resident commentator on TV Successo. Mr Chamusse was a fervent defender of press and expression freedoms. His work covered local politics and corruption, and he often criticised the government for his poor human rights and corruption record. He recently appeared as a political commentator on TV Sucesso’s special programme on municipal elections (‘Especial Eleições Autárquicas 2023’).

In the early hours of December 14, 2023, João Chamusse was found dead in the backyard of his house in KaTembe, in Maputo City, by neighbours who heard him scream for help during the night. The journalist had a wound to his head and a machete and gardening hoe were
found on the ground.

Meanwhile, according to Mr Chamusse's family and work colleagues, two of his mobile phones and a laptop have gone missing. Mr Chamusse would have been forced to open the office of the newspaper near his home. His body also shows signs that the journalist would have been tortured, allegedly in order to take some information or an object.

Twenty-four hours later, on December 15, 2023, the Mozambique Republic Police (PRM) of Maputo Province identified the alleged perpetrator and said João Chamusse was murdered by a neighbour after an alleged dispute over noise pollution. However, this thesis fails to explain the reasons for the disappearance of two mobile phones and a laptop belonging to the victim. The presumed murderer is detained in the cells of the Matutuíne District Command in the Province of Maputo.

João Chamusse had previously co-founded the weekly newspaper Canal de Moçambique and worked as a reporter at the Metical newspaper, which was then edited by journalist Carlos Cardoso, who was murdered because of his activities as a journalist in 2000. Another Mozambican journalist, Paulo Machavo, was killed in 2015, but the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has not yet determined whether his death was related to his journalistic work.

The Observatory recalls that many attacks or arbitrary detentions against journalists, led by security officers or government officials, were reported in recent years in Mozambique, including against journalists denouncing human rights violations committed by those actors and the violent and extremist groups in the framework of the conflict in the Northern province of Cabo Delgado. The cases of Arlindo Chissale, Germano Daniel Adriano, Amade Abubacar, Estacio Valoi and David Matsinhe, Pindai Dube and Ericino de Salema are only a few examples of this trend.

As mentioned in the Observatory and Mozambique Network of Human Rights Defenders (RMDDH)’s report “Silenced Voices: Attacks Against Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders in Mozambique”, published in September 2023, while Article 48 of the Constitution of Mozambique provides for freedom of expression and information, including for members of the press and media, the government does not effectively nor consistently respect these freedoms. Fear for reprisals when criticising the Government is tangible among journalists, academics, opposition leaders as well civil society at large. In 2023, Mozambique ranked 102 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ Index on freedom of the press. New laws that would limit the space of work for journalists and freedom of expression in general, were still being discussed at the Parliament at the time of the Observatory’s mission in Mozambique at the end of May 2023. The new draft media law (Lei de Comunicação Social) and new draft broadcasting law (Lei de Radiodifusão), first introduced to Parliament in 2021, are highly controversial, as they could potentially affect, control or impose restrictions on both national and international media. In addition, a new controversial counter-terrorism law was adopted and published in July 2022, which Article 20 (Divulgação de informação) part 2 provides for two to eight years imprisonment for anyone who intentionally spreads false information about a terrorist act. This provision clearly threatens freedom of expression and the press. It gives a free hand to the authorities to silence the media, activists, human rights defenders and civil society at large when it comes to independent reporting on terrorist acts and, for example, the conflict in Cabo Delgado Province where Mozambican forces are operating.

The Observatory strongly condemns the killing of João Chamusse and urges the authorities of Mozambique to carry out immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations into this killing, to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law, as well clarify the real motive behind this crime. The Observatory also urges the authorities of Mozambique to promote and respect, in all circumstances, the fundamental rights to freedom of the press and expression, as enshrined in Articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Mozambique asking them to:

i. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the killing of João Chamusse in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

ii. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders and journalists in Mozambique;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level – against all human rights defenders and journalists in Mozambique, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Promote and respect, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression, opinion, and freedom of the press.

Addresses:

  • President of the Republic of Mozambique, Mr. Filipe Nyusi, Twitter: @filipe_nyusi
  • Minister of Justice, Constitutional and Religious Affairs, Ms. Helena Kida. Email: suporte@mjcr.gov.mz , Twitter: @KidaHelena
  • Minister of Interior, Mr. Pascoal Ronda, Email: gcimintmz@gmail.com
  • Provedor de Justiça, Mr. Isaque Chande, Email : gpj@provedor-justica.org.mz , Twitter : @DoJustica
  • President of the National Commission of Human Rights, Mr. Luis Bitone Nahe, Email : lbitnahe@gmail.com
  • H.E. Amadeu Paulo Samuel Da Conceição, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Mission of the Republic of Mozambique to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email : mission.mozambique@bluewin.ch

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Mozambique in your respective country.

***

Paris-Geneva, December 18, 2023

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • Tel FIDH: + 33 (1) 43 55 25 18
  • Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49
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