Mozambique: Journalist Arlindo Chissale faces lesser charge after terrorism charge

At 4 a.m. on October 29, Arlindo Chissale, editor of the private newspaper Pinnacle News, which specializes in reporting on the insurgency in Cabo Delgado province, was arrested by police in Balama, west of the provincial capital of Pemba, and held in police cells. for six days, according to news reports from the Mozambican chapter of the regional media freedom group, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), and the journalist who spoke to CPJ by phone.

Chissale was denied access to a lawyer and his family for the first four days of his detention and his two phones were confiscated and searched, according to the journalist, who said he was in Balama to organize a accommodation ahead of next year’s municipal elections for Renamo, the opposition party for which he sometimes works and plans to stand as a candidate in municipal elections. Chissale also took photos, reported and published articles for Pinnacle News in Cabo Delgado.

After public outcry, including fears of Chissale’s enforced disappearance, Gilroy Fazenda, spokesman for the Cabo Delgado prosecutor’s office, charged Chissale on Nov. 3 with alleged terrorism and gathering information for terrorist purposes, crimes punishable by sentence of up to 20 years in prison, according to audio of a press conference reviewed by CPJ. Fazenda added that Chissale had identified himself as a journalist using an expired credential and that officers were not sure he was one.

That evening, a Balama District Court judge ordered Chissale’s interim release after finding there were not strong enough grounds to keep him in custody and said the journalist should answer to a lesser charge under Section 344 (3) of the Penal Code. code that prohibits professionals, including journalists, from working without a proper license or accreditation, according to lawyer Augusto Messariamba, another MISA statement and the media. Messariamba told CPJ that Chissale was released on November 4, after providing proof of his identity and residence.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle after his release, Chissale said he had traveled to Balama ahead of next year’s municipal elections and hoped to help Renamo. He said the police reacted as they did because he was a supporter of an opposition party “and even more so being a journalist”.

He said in the interview that after his arrest, the police went to his boarding house to check his credentials as a journalist. “They didn’t like the presence of the journalist” and the mention of Renamo, he said.

Balama’s government administrator, Edson Lima, told CPJ via the messaging app that he learned of the journalist’s detention after Fazenda’s statement and that Chissale’s “was an isolated case because Balama is a safe place for journalists”.

In August 2022, Chissale told CPJ he feared for his life after a member of the ruling Frelimo party, Bellya Nota, accused him of terrorism, harassed him, and threatened him on a social media group supporting President Filipe Nyusi between June and August 2020. .

On November 3, Nota posted on this group celebrating Chissale’s arrest by stating that “justice may take time but it does not fail.” The post reviewed by CPJ was later deleted.

Chissale filed a defamation suit against Nota in early 2021 and the case was later transferred to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, and is pending review by a local court.

Nota did not respond to a CPJ request for comment on a number provided by Nota’s attorney, Chomar Amiise. Amiise told CPJ he could not comment on the defamation claim.

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