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Radio journalist beaten by opposition party supporters

(MISA/IFEX) - MISA-Mozambique, a regional chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, has strongly protested the brutal beating of a community radio journalist by members of the country's main opposition party, Renamo, in the northern port of Nacala.

The incident occurred on 16 September 2009, the fourth day of the current election campaign. The journalist, Alfane Momade Antonio, who works for Nacala Community Radio (which belongs to the state-owned Mass Communication Institute, ICS), went to the Renamo office to ask for the campaign schedule for the day. He had already fixed a meeting with the head of the Renamo campaign in Nacala, Rafael Gusmao.

But instead of receiving the information he was seeking, Antonio was attacked by men believed to be Renamo supporters, supposedly because the radio station is critical of Renamo.

His notebook and pen were seized by the attackers. The radio station reported the assault to the police, and Antonio was treated in the local hospital for injuries he sustained. Although the attack happened on the Renamo premises, Renamo denies any responsibility and says it was not the work of any of its supporters.

MISA-Mozambique also reports that on 3 September, 10 days before the start of the election campaign, a journalist named Lazaro Antonio, who works for a community radio station in Alto-Molocue, in the central province of Zambezia, was summoned by the district first secretary of the ruling Frelimo Party, Daniel Gurue. He was told to come to the local Frelimo office and bring the cassette that he had used earlier in the day when reporting on a Renamo political activity. At the Frelimo office, Lazaro Antonio was ordered to play the cassette for Gurue. "I need this cassette so that the district administrator can hear it, so that we know whether you are authorised to use it or not," stated Gurue.

But Lazaro Antonio refused to go along with this. He took the cassette and tape recorder back and told Gurue that his conduct was not acceptable. A source in the radio told MISA-Mozambique that after some time, the first secretary said "you can take this, but don't do anything without talking to us."

MISA-Mozambique strongly condemned the abuse and harassment of the media by politicians, adding that this is a serious violation of constitutionally enshrined media rights to free expression.

Reporters, particularly those working for community radio stations are suffering physical and psychological violence and harassment as Mozambique prepares for an election at the end of 2009. MISA urged society and politicians in particular to refrain from impeding the work of journalists.

MISA-Mozambique also expressed concern over the political coverage on Radio Mozambique being given to the activities of the First Lady, Maria da Luz Guebuza, when the same treatment is not given to the wives of the other two presidential candidates, Afonso Dhlakama of Renamo and Daviz Simango of the MDM. Responding to this query, the radio's director of information, Ezequiel Mavota, said Maria Guebuza is a politician in her own right, and was being covered, not as the wife of the president, but because she was leading a Frelimo campaign brigade in Maputo province. "We do the same with the campaign brigades of the other political parties," he added.

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