March 31, 2018

Journalist abducted, tortured after criticizing Mozambique’s government

© Ericino de Salema
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this week’s abduction and beating of Mozambican journalist and political commentator Ericino de Salema as a grave press freedom violation and calls on the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation in order to find those responsible.

A commentator for several media outlets including the privately-owned TV channel STV, Salema had just left the headquarters of the National Union of Journalists (SNJ) in the capital, Maputo, on 27 March when two unidentified men bundled him into their car and then drove off.

He was found unconscious and bearing the marks of torture a few hours later on a highway in Marracuene, a few kilometres north of the capital. He was immediately rushed to a Maputo hospital with serious injuries including multiple fractures.

A frequent critic of President Filipe Nyusi in his political analyses for STV, Salema had received death threats the day before his abduction. During an appearance on STV’s “Pontos de Vista” programme on 25 March, he had criticised the government’s debt restructuring and called for the finance minister’s resignation.

The police say they have an opened an investigation with the aim of identifying Salema’s assailants.

“The beating of this journalist comes amid a climate of growing hostility towards critics of the government that includes intimidation and verbal threats,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We urge the authorities to do everything possible to find those responsible for this attack in order to send a clear message to those who target Mozambican journalists.”

A gunman threatened to kill the editor of the weekly Ikweli in the northern city of Nampula in December because of an article critical of a Mozambique Democratic Movement candidate for the municipal elections. Nampula-based Radio Encontro’s director was threatened by the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) in January after denouncing irregularities in those elections.

Salema’s abduction and beating has been condemned by media organizations including the Mass Media Supreme Council (CSCS), which said: “This attack carried out in broad daylight is indicative of a climate of impunity.” Human Right Watch has also condemned the “climate of fear” in Mozambique.

Mozambique is ranked 93rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.