CPJ investigates Cardoso's murder

Maputo- Mozambique (PANA) -- A delegation from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Thursday observed that Maputo newsrooms are "haunted by an atmosphere of fear", following last November's brutal assassination of Carlos Cardoso, editor of the independent newsheet "Metical".
The delegation, led by CPJ deputy director Joel Simon, was visiting Maputo to conduct its own investigation into the murder of Cardoso, and the impact the crime has had on the Mozambican media.
Although all the government officials who met with the delegation reiterated a commitment to press freedom, some of the dozens of journalists with whom they spoke "told us that they are afraid to cover sensitive stories, particularly those involving corruption", Simon told a press conference.
The delegation said, "while there is no official censorship, journalists described many episodes of self- censorship.
Many told us that certain stories are off limits, particularly those involving corruption".
The delegation even found one person refusing to meet with them, on the grounds that his life had been threatened, while others cancelled meetings at the last minute.
In order to protect these individuals, Simon declined to give their names.
The delegation found its findings "particularly disappointing given that CPJ and other press freedom organisations have given Mozambique high marks in the past.
The country is known for an environment in which independent and state-sponsored media have competed freely without official interference".
All those to whom the delegation talked agreed that the assassination of Cardoso "has left a serious gap in aggressive, investigative reporting".
In order to counter journalists' fears, the delegation called on the government "to publicly reaffirm its respect for the role of the press as a check on abuses of power.
Journalists who pursue stories involving official corruption must be able to count on the full protection and support of authorities".
The CPJ, one of the major international NGOs defending press freedom, thought, "the best way to combat self-censorship is through a vigorous pursuit of justice in the Cardoso murder case".
It called on the government "to continue to make the investigation a priority and to aggressively pursue all avenues, regardless of where they lead".
Simon stressed that the CPJ wanted the investigators to follow up "all leads".
Even though six people have been charged with the murder, and may go on trial later in the year, the CPJ did not think the investigators should consider the case as closed.
On the contrary, Simon declared "this investigation need to be on-going.
We hope government officials will continue to move the investigation forward".
The delegation also criticised the fact that in Mozambique libel is a criminal rather than a civil offence.
"Defamation should never be a criminal matter", the CPJ executives stressed.
They expressed particular concern at the April threat by businessman Nhimpine Chissano, son of President Joaquim Chissano, to sue "Metical" journalist Marcelo Mosse for alleged libel.
Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao was the only minister the delegation was able to meet with as other relevant officials made themselves unavailable.
The minister of Interior and the director of the Criminal Investigation Police refused to meet the delegation.
CPJ promised to fully publish results of its investigation shortly.

19 july 2001 22:54:00

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