Today, a judge in Mozambique’s Pemba city court ruled that journalists Amade Abubacar and Germano Daniel Adriano be released on bail, three months after their arrest on groundless accusations. This was a bright moment in an otherwise troubling case in which the government’s actions have threatened the work of investigative journalists and undermined press freedom in the country.
Following the hearing, the media organization MISA Mozambique pledged to keep fighting for the journalists’ immediate and unconditional release, which human rights groups around the world have been urging for weeks.
Police detained Abubacar on January 5, 2019 in Macomia district without a warrant while he was interviewing people fleeing their homes because of armed attacks in Cabo Delgado province. The police handed him over to the military, who took him to a detention facility in Mueda district where he was held incommunicado for 12 days in violation of Mozambican law prohibiting military personnel from holding civilians in military barracks. Adriano, a journalist at the community radio and television of Nacedje, was arrested on January 18. They were both detained without charge at Mieze prison.
In January, the authorities accused the two journalists of “public incitement using electronic media” and “violation of State secrecy.” Prosecutors alleged that Abubacar’s notebook contained detailed information about an armed insurgency. They never provided an explanation for Adriano’s arrest.
On April 16, after the 90-day legal limit since Abubacar’s arrest, the two journalists were charged with “spreading messages damaging to the Mozambican Armed Forces.”
The two journalists should never have been arrested or charged for simply doing their job. The court’s decision to grant bail provides the government a golden opportunity to do the right thing: drop these charges and allow all journalists in Mozambique to operate safely and freely.