November 11, 2003

Radio journalist detained by Renamo

Members and sympathisers of Renamo in the northern province of Cabo Delgado seized a Radio journalist at the weekend and held him prisoner inside the local Renamo offices for several hours. The incident happened in the town of Montepuez, where the journalist, Salvador Januario, had reported on illegal activities by Renamo supporters who had been tearing down the local election propaganda flyposted by other political parties.

The same Renamo group threatened vendors in the Montepuez market who fled for their lives, fearing a repeat of the Renamo insurrection of 9 November 2000, in which 21 people were killed. Januario reported these incidents immediately on the national service of Radio Mozambique. A few hours after his report was broadcast, Januario was seized and taken to the Renamo office. He was held there for more than three hours and submitted to interrogation. After his ordeal, Januario said he would not press charges against Renamo, partly because he feared possible reprisals, and partly because he still has to cover the rest of the election campaign in Montepuez.

But it is not Januario's responsibility to press charges: under the Mozambican press law, when a journalist is illegally detained or harassed as a result of his professional duties, it is his employer who must take legal action against the perpetrators. Thus Radio Mozambique has the legal obligation to sue Renamo. Since the detention of Januario also constitutes a "public crime", other bodies can take action too. The electoral bodies could press charges, and the police could act on their own initiative, without waiting for a complaint from Januario. By holding Januario in their offices, Renamo committed the crime of "private imprisonment", which bears a prison sentence of between two and eight years. (Agencia de Informação de Moçambique, Maputo)


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