Freedom of Expression Groups Call for Immediate Release of Detained Mozambican Journalist

Amade Abubacar
Amade Abubacar

Media Rights Agenda (MRA), other members of the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) and 36 other  freedom of expression and human rights organisations have urged Mozambican authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Amade Abubacar, a community radio journalist at the state-owned Rádio e Televisão Comunitária Nacedje de Macomia, who has been in detention since January 5, 2019.

In a joint statement, the civil society groups said they are “gravely concerned by the continued arbitrary detention of Mr. Amade Abubacar” who was reported to have been tortured in the process. They urged the Mozambican authorities “to investigate the alleged ill-treatment of Amade while he was in military detention and hold all those responsible to account,” as well as allow all journalists to operate freely and safely.

According to the Statement, Amade has been in detention since 5 January, when he was arrested by police officers of Macomia district without a warrant while he was interviewing people who fled their homes due to intensification of violent attacks carried out by individuals believed to be members of an extremist group.

Reports have it that the police handed him over to the military who took him to a detention facility in Mueda district, where he was held incommunicado for 12 days and during which period he was allegedly subjected to different forms of ill-treatment, which may amount to torture.

The statement added that on January 25, Amade told representatives of the Mozambican Bar Association that military officers violently shook his body several times and forced him to sleep handcuffed and that he had been deprived of food for several days.

Amade is currently being held at the Mieze prison in Pemba, where prison authorities have denied him visits from his family.

Amade is being investigated for “public incitement using electronic media” and “violation of State secrecy” under articles 322 and 323 of Mozambique’s Penal Code. However, he is yet to be formally charged with a recognizable criminal offence or put on trial.

Citing article 308, §1°, N° 3, of the Criminal Procedural Code, which states that a person cannot be held in pre-trial detention for more than 90 days after their arrest, the groups said his arrest and continued detention violates the Mozambican constitution, as well as the country’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression and due process, which includes the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

Amade’s detention is said to be part of a pattern of harassment and repression of journalists in Cabo Delgado province documented by media and human rights groups.

United Nations human rights experts Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said the arrest of Amade could have “a chilling effect on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Mozambique.”

The groups urged “the Mozambican authorities to end arbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists and immediately and unconditionally release Amade Abubacar who is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for his work as a journalist.”