New York, August 24, 2020 — Authorities in Mozambique should conduct a quick and thorough investigation into the arson attack on Canal de Moçambique, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At about 8 p.m. yesterday, in the capital, Maputo, unidentified individuals broke into the office used by the independent weekly investigative newspaper and its daily digital publication CanalMoz, poured gasoline on the furniture and equipment, and set it ablaze, according to news reports.
The fire destroyed the newsroom, furniture, and all the equipment used for content production, as well as the paper's archive, according to a statement by the Mozambican chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, a regional press rights group, which CPJ reviewed.
“The attack on Canal de Moçambique's office is the latest chapter in an ever-worsening environment for the independent press in Mozambique and a blatant assault on democracy and the public's right to know,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa program coordinator. “We urge Mozambique's authorities to speedily and credibly investigate the attack and ensure that it does not become yet another example of the impunity that is becoming the norm with attacks on the press in Mozambique.”
In a statement on his official Facebook page, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said he strongly condemned the attack, and said he had instructed authorities to investigate.
Matias Guente, the paper's executive editor, told CPJ via messaging app that the attackers “are trying just to shut down the paper, because they know how relevant we are to democracy.”
He called the attack “terrorism against freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”
The Center for Democracy in Mozambique, a local human rights group, said in a statement reviewed by CPJ that the attack could be linked to a Canal de Moçambique investigation into alleged corruption among top officials involved with the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, which was published last week. The ministry suspended a fuel marketing deal following that investigation, according to that statement.
Police spokesman Orlando Mudumane did not reply to a request for comment via messaging app.
Guente and Canal de Moçambique have faced official harassment and intimidation in recent years, the journalist told CPJ.
On December 31, 2019, unidentified assailants beat Guente and attempted to kidnap him, according to news reports from the time. In June 2020, the attorney general's office questioned him for allegedly contravening state secrets for publishing information about a security contract between the government and a multinational oil consortium in the Cabo Delgado province, according to reports and Guente.
Guente told CPJ today that he believed the incidents were related, including his attempted kidnapping, adding that the police had yet to report back on its investigation more than nine months later.
Meanwhile, police have yet to credibly investigate and report back on the disappearance of radio journalist Ibraimo Mbaruco, who went missing on April 7 in Cabo Delgado, after he sent a text message to a colleague that he was “surrounded by soldiers,” as CPJ documented at the time.