September 14, 2018
Last month, the Mozambican government announced plans to impose hefty new fees on foreign correspondents working in the country, including a staggering $2500 for single trip accreditation.
These prohibitively expensive fees made international headlines, and sparked widespread outrage among media bodies. “The high accreditation costs represent an attack on media freedom in the country,” said the Foreign Correspondents Association of Southern Africa.
“These fee increases by the Mozambican government make it practically impossible for independent press to continue working,” said the Committee to Protect Journalists. But for Mozambican journalists, the government’s attempt to crack down on foreign correspondents came as no surprise. After all, it is local journalists who bear the brunt of official hostility. They have been operating for years in a dangerous environment and things are only getting worse.
It is not only journalists feeling the pressure, either. Scholars, magistrates, politicians, artists, civil society activists — all are operating in a climate of fear, and some have paid with their lives for speaking out.
The war on free speech began in earnest as far back as 2000, when investigative reporter Carlos Cardoso was assassinated on a street in Maputo. He was investigating alleged corruption in one of Mozambique’s biggest banks. One of the men charged with the killing told a court that the hit had been ordered by Nyimpine Chissano, the son of the then-president Joaquim Chissano.
More recent victims include:
- Gilles Cistac, a constitutional lawyer, shot in broad daylight in a Maputo café after criticising the ruling party in the press;
- Ericino de Salema, a journalist and human rights lawyer, abducted in central Maputo and assaulted.