Journalist held in northern Mozambique for covering Islamist insurrection

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of a radio journalist in northeastern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, who is being held in a military prison after being arrested while interviewing people fleeing Islamist rebels.

Amade Abubacar, a reporter for local community radio Nacedje de Macomia and correspondent for the Zitamar News website, was arrested in the district of Macomia on 5 January while interviewing families fleeing violence linked to the Islamist insurrection that began in this part of the province in October 2017. 

He was then taken to a military base in Mueda, 200 km northwest of where he was arrested, and is still being held there, according to the Mozambican branch of the Media Institute of Southern Africa. The authorities have provided no information about the reasons for his arrest.

By covering the ongoing insurrection in northern Mozambique, this reporter was just doing his job in a region where reporting is scarce because of the prevailing violence, and we therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “With nine months to go to a presidential election, it is important that journalists should be able to access this conflict zone and cover all subjects of concern to the public without being obstructed by the authorities.

Contacted by RSF, Zitamar News editor Tom Bowker described Abubacar as a reporter who was committed to covering the news in his region and had no links with those responsible for the terrorist attacks there. Sam Ratner, who also contributes to Zitamar News, described him as “talented” and “well-respected.”

Estacio Valoi, an investigative reporter working for the newspaper Zambeze, was held for two days along with an Amnesty International researcher and their driver after being arrested on 17 December in Palma, a coastal town in Cabo Delgado province. Valoi was there to do a report on the insurrection’s impact on the lives of the local population. Little is known about the armed group that suddenly began carrying out attacks in the province in October 2017. According to official figures, around 100 people – including civilians, rebels and members of the security forces – have been killed in the course of these attacks.

Mozambique is ranked 99th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index, six places lower than in 2017.

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Updated on 10.01.2019