Reporters Without Borders is alarmed to learn that Paulo Machava, the well-known editor of the online Diario de Noticias newspaper, was gunned down on a Maputo street today against a backdrop of tension for media personnel in Mozambique.
Machava was shot at around 6 a.m. as he was jogging along Vladimir Lenin Avenue, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, before going to work. Witnesses said the shots were fired by gunmen in a car.
Previously employed by the independent weekly Savana and state-owned Radio Moçambique, Machava recently expressed support for journalists who are being prosecuted in violation of the 2014 amnesty law on a charge of defaming the president.
“It is extremely disturbing that a leading journalist has been gunned down on one of the capital’s street,” said Clea Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk.
“Whatever its origin, this is a message of extraordinary violence. Coming after government opponent Gilles Cistac’s recent murder and the harsh judicial measures adopted with several journalists, this suggests that it is strictly forbidden to criticize the authorities.”
Mozambique’s judicial system has distinguished itself by its recent severity towards media personnel.
The victims include Fernando Mbanze and Fernando Veloso, who have been charged since December 2013 with “illegally media activity” and “threatening state security” for publishing a Facebook post by economist Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco in their respective newspapers, Mediafax and Canal de Moçambique. The post was critical of the president.
They continue to be prosecuted although their cases should have been covered by a law passed by parliament in 2014 granting an amnesty for all crimes against state security (including acts of physical violence and destruction of material) committed between March 2012 and August 2014.
In June, Nelson Mucandze, a journalist with the now defunct weekly Expresso Moz, and Anselmo Sengo, the weekly’s publisher, were ordered to pay exorbitant damages of 10 million meticals (256,000 euros) in a libel suit brought by Filipe Paunde, the former secretary-general of the political party Frelimo.
Mozambique is ranked 85th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.