The Mozambican state's media regulator, the High Media Council,has demanded
a public apology from the governor of the northernmost province of Tete
for issuing death threats to a journalist, writes Charles Mangwiro for
The council said Ildefonso Muanantatha made the threats in March against a journalist working for the state-controlled and biggest circulating paper Noticias and wants him to make a public retraction and apology.
This came after a council delegation investigated incidents at a lunch in March, when Noticias reporter, Bernardo Carlos was accompanying Muanantatha on a tour to the district of Magoe. The delegation concluded that the reporter was indeed threatened by the governor.
The council accepted that, Muanantatha told Carlos in the presence of other reporters: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYouÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re shoving me. Eventually I might react.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Articles written by Carlos had not shown the Tete provincial government in a good light, and even though CarlosÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s sources included Finance Minister Manuel Chang, the governor warned him that he might meet the same fate as Carlos Cardoso, the investigative journalist who was murdered in Maputo in November 2000.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou have a family who might suffer because of the articles youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re writing. Because one day you might wake up without that elbow youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re using to shove me around.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œDonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t you know how your colleague Carlos Cardoso disappeared?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Muantatha told the reporter.
Carlos Cardoso, who was the countryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s best-known investigative journalist, was gunned down in MaputoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s luxury suburb of Sommerchield in 2000 while probing a $14 million embezzlement from the Commercial Bank of Mozambique.
Six people were convicted of the murder and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 23 to 28 years.
The 11-member council met on 30 April to receive the report from the delegation that visited Tete and concluded that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œunder the circumstances, the words spoken by the governor were a threat to the physical integrity of Bernardo CarlosÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
It called on Muanantatha ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œto make a retraction by publicly apologizing to Bernardo Carlos, to the class of journalists, and to society as a whole.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe governorÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s statements were a serious threat to the independence of the media, to the freedom of the press and to the right to information.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The council also recommended that the leadership of the National Union of Journalists (SNJ) and of the Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) should ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œencourage a spirit of solidarity and cohesion among colleagues in cases of this nature.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The council also noted that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œin much of the country there is still a lack of knowledge about media legislation, among journalists, government members and civil society organizationsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â, and so it promised to undertake a campaign to publicize the Mozambican press law.
The council statement on the governorÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s threats is dated 30 April, but only now, almost three weeks later, has it been published. There has been no retraction and no apology from Muanantatha.
The council is a body enshrined in the Mozambican constitution, which states that its tasks are to ensure the independence of the mass media, in the exercise of the right to information, freedom of the press, the right to political broadcasting time, and the right of reply.