Media and rights groups are calling on Mozambican authorities to locate and immediately release a community radio journalist missing since April 7. Ibraimo Abu Mbaruco, a reporter of Rádio Comunitária de Palma, or Palma Community Radio, disappeared while on his way home shortly after he left the radio station. His family and his colleagues have not heard from him since.
“The information gathered so far indicates that soldiers witnessed this journalist’s disappearance and may have been involved,” Arnaud Froger, the head of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Africa desk, said in a statement Friday.
The government of Mozambique has not commented on the disappearance of Mbaruco.
“The silence coming from the highest authorities is extremely worrying and we fear that he could suffer the same fate as other journalists, who were held incommunicado for months last year for covering the violence in northern Mozambique,” the statement said, adding “turning this violence-torn province into a black hole for news and information will not help to end the insurrection.”
In a text message, sent to a colleague on April 7, Mbaruco said he was “surrounded by military,” according to RSF, which said it has contacted the person.
“Mozambican authorities must be thorough and transparent in their investigation into Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco’s whereabouts and ensure accountability, given that Cabo Delgado has become a no-go area for the press and human rights defenders,” said Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists Angela Quintal in a statement. “It is unacceptable that 10 days after he disappeared, his family and colleagues remain in the dark about his whereabouts.”
“Ibraimo Mbaruco’s apparent forced disappearance is of grave concern, particularly given the Mozambican security forces’ alarming record of wrongfully detaining journalists,” said southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch Dewa Mavhinga. “The Mozambican government should urgently take all necessary steps to locate Mbaruco and ensure his safe release.”
Amnesty International also called on Mozambique government, if Mbaruco is in state custody, to ensure his safety and release him immediately.
The organization demanded that the practice of enforced disappearances in Mozambique come to an end and that the government ensure that the right to freedom of expression and media freedom are “fully respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled and that journalists are able to freely carry out their work without fear of attacks, intimidation, harassment and censorship.”
Mbaruco’s disappearance comes as evidence is growing that Mozambican security forces have continued to harass, intimidate, and arbitrarily detain journalists covering fighting between government forces and Islamist militants seeking to establish a caliphate in the country’s northern region.