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Mozambique: Killing of the prominent journalist João Chamusse

45 has been informed about the killing of prominent journalist João Chamusse, the co-owner and editor of electronic newspaper “Ponto por Ponto” and a resident commentator on TV Successo. Mr Chamusse was a fervent defender of press and expression freedoms. His work covered local politics and corruption, and he often criticised the government for his poor human rights and corruption record. He recently appeared as a political commentator on TV Sucesso’s special programme on municipal elections (‘Especial Eleições Autárquicas 2023’).

In the early hours of December 14, 2023, João Chamusse was found dead in the backyard of his house in KaTembe, in Maputo City, by neighbours who heard him scream for help during the night. The journalist had a wound to his head and a machete and gardening hoe were found on the ground.

Meanwhile, according to Mr Chamusse’s family and work colleagues, two of his mobile phones and a laptop have gone missing. Mr Chamusse would have been forced to open the office of the newspaper near his home. His body also shows signs that the journalist would have been tortured, allegedly in order to take some information or an object.

Twenty-four hours later, on December 15, 2023, the Mozambique Republic Police (PRM) of Maputo Province identified the alleged perpetrator and said João Chamusse was murdered by a neighbour after an alleged dispute over noise pollution. However, this thesis fails to explain the reasons for the disappearance of two mobile phones and a laptop belonging to the victim. The presumed murderer is detained in the cells of the Matutuíne District Command in the Province of Maputo.

Many attacks or arbitrary detentions against journalists, led by security officers or government officials, were reported in recent years in Mozambique, including against journalists denouncing human rights violations committed by those actors and the violent and extremist groups in the framework of the conflict in the Northern province of Cabo Delgado. The cases of Arlindo Chissale, Germano Daniel Adriano, Amade Abubacar, Estacio Valoi and David Matsinhe, Pindai Dube and Ericino de Salema are only a few examples of this trend.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Mozambique Network of Human Rights Defenders (RMDDH)’ published a report in September 2023 titled “Silenced Voices: Attacks Against Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders in Mozambique”. This report highlights the lack of respect from freedom of expression and information in the country despite it being included in the Constitution of Mozambique. Fear of reprisals when criticising the Government is tangible among journalists, academics, opposition leaders as well civil society at large.

In 2023, Mozambique ranked 102 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ Index on freedom of the press. New laws that would limit the space of work for journalists and freedom of expression in general, were still being discussed at the Parliament at the time of the Observatory’s mission in Mozambique at the end of May 2023. strongly condemns the killing of João Chamusse and urges the authorities of Mozambique to carry out immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations into this killing, to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law, as well clarify the real motive behind this crime.