(MISA/IFEX) - Mozambican Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi has confirmed that
action is being taken against the Chiure police commander who detained
journalist Fernando Quinova on two separate occasions (last October and
February of this year), reports the Mozambican News Agency (AIM).
**Updates IFEX alerts of 10 March, 9 March, 8 March, 5 March, 3 February and
28 January 1999**
Mocumbi did not specify what action was being taken against the official,
but said that the matter had been handed to the Ministry of the Interior,
which was in contact with the Mozambican Journalists Union (SNJ). He said
the matter was being treated as a violation of press freedom laws.
Mocumbi was speaking on 9 April 1999 at his weekly press briefing in the
capital, Maputo. During the briefing Mocumbi pledged the government's
commitment to press freedom and to a pluralist media. He recalled that 11
April was the anniversary of the SNJ and stressed that the government "is
committed to defending pluralism in the mass media and their editorial
independence." He added that the government was also interested "in
facilitating journalists' work, and in making information available to
Mocumbi admitted that there were still cases where journalists were harassed
or intimidated, but described these as local incidents that in no way
reflected government policy. He praised those who exposed and denounced such
incidents. He also encouraged reporters to continue to publicise abuses "so
that we know who the abusers are, can hold them responsible, and, if
necessary take legal action against them."
Fernando Quinova, who works for the publicly-owned Mass Communications
Institute (ICS), was arrested on 30 October last year, after Radio
Mozambique broadcast a story he had written concerning the death of an
alleged thief at the hands of police in the district of Chiure. He was held
in the Chiure police cells without charge for twenty three days but managed
to escape and walked through the bush for two weeks until he reached the
Cabo Delgado provincial capital, Pemba.
He and the local ICS delegate, Luisa Lourenco, then complained to the
provincial police command, who admitted that the Chiure police had behaved
illegally and promised an inquiry. Despite this, Quinova was re-arrested on
15 February when he returned to Chiure. This time, he was charged with
slandering the police, and "leaking information." Neither of the charges
against Quinova exist in Mozambican law. There are no such crimes as
"leaking information" or "slandering the police."
Quinova was released from detention on 6 March.