Mozambican authorities must investigate and hold to account police officers who assaulted two broadcast reporters and ensure that journalists are able to report freely and without fear, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On August 4, reporters for privately owned broadcaster Tua Televisão, Alexandre Eusébio and Ivaldo Novela, were assaulted by five officers of Mozambique’s National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC) in the capital, Maputo, while covering the funeral of another police officer who had committed suicide, according to media reports, a statement by the Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), and the journalists who spoke to CPJ via phone and messaging app.
The officers also broke the journalists’ equipment, those sources said.
“The unprovoked assault by police on journalists Alexandre Eusébio and Ivaldo Novela while they were reporting on the funeral of a police officer must be thoroughly investigated and acted upon to stop an apparent culture of impunity for attacks on members of the press in Mozambique,” said CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, Angela Quintal. “In addition to holding the officers accountable for their actions, authorities must also compensate Eusébio and Novela for their broken equipment and ensure that journalists are able to report freely without risk of attack by those who have taken an oath to serve and protect citizens.”
Eusébio told CPJ that he and Novela were clearly identified as journalists with their press cards visible. In addition, Novela was carrying a television camera and Eusébio a microphone.
“They (the attackers) were in plain clothes but identified themselves as police, yelling at us that we could not record there. They got angry when we said we had the family’s authorization and started to push us,” Eusébio said.
As he tried to call police, Eusébio said, “they got my phone, grabbed my arms, and twisted my wrists. They threw my phone to the ground and broke it.” Eusébio said the attack could have been worse had it not been for people attending the funeral who intervened to protect the journalists from the officers.
Novela told CPJ he was grabbed by the neck from behind. “They took the camera, threw it on the ground, it broke, they took the memory card with all the day’s work. The daily news bulletin was ruined because all the work was lost,” Novela said.
“I took the camera and showed them that it was broken and went to the car. They followed, insulting us, threatening to further beat us and one threatened to shoot me,” Novela added.
Both journalists received medical treatment at Mavalane general hospital and were prescribed paracetamol and anti-inflammatory medication for contusions on Novela’s neck and Eusébio’s wrist, according to the journalists and documents reviewed by CPJ. The journalists went to a local police station to press charges against the officers who attacked them, those sources said.
SERNIC spokesperson, Hilário Lole, declined to confirm the attack on the journalists to CPJ, saying that many people attended the funeral, including other police agencies, and that the journalists assumed their attackers were SERNIC agents. A complaint was filed and the incident will be investigated, Lole added.
Eusébio told CPJ that the officer who grabbed the camera from Novela identified himself as a SERNIC officer and showed them his work pass to justify grabbing the journalists’ equipment.
CPJ documented police assaults on at least nine journalists in Mozambique in 2021.