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Mozambique: Open access for journalists, insecurity imposes limits

Screen shot: UN Web

Mozambique’s justice minister, Helena Kida, told the United Nations (UN) on Tuesday that the country has given journalists and humanitarian organisations access to Cabo Delgado, but that insecurity imposes limits.

“Mozambique has openly granted authorisations for various national and international media to have access to areas affected by the conflict so that they can report impartially and transparently on the experiences of those places,” Kida said.

This authorisation is extended to several organisations, whether they are humanitarian support or social advocacy, she added.

According to Kida, it is important to mention that, as this is a conflict zone, there is the need to guarantee that these activities are carried out safely, which may at some point limit the number of participants in this process, she said.

However, this is done without prejudice to the efforts that have been made to guarantee access to these locations so that information is transmitted.

Kida was speaking during the session of the Universal Periodic Review of Mozambique’s compliance with Human Rights, promoted by the United Nations (UN), held in Geneva, Switzerland, and to which representatives of dozens of countries with recommendations were connected online.

Several countries recommended that Mozambique promotes and defends the freedom of the press and freedom of expression, particularly in access to Cabo Delgado, and to hold accountable those responsible for crimes against journalists.

Mozambique should allow the independent press and civil society to have access to report on conflict regions and the state should investigate and hold accountable those responsible for violent attacks against members of the press, said a representative of the United States of America (USA).

France, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Italy and Australia were among the other countries that expressed concerns about the environment in which the media work in the Portuguese-language country.

Portugal expressed concern about the human rights situation in Cabo Delgado and the shrinking of civic space and limitations to freedom of expression.

“Portugal recommends that Mozambique take urgent measures to protect populations affected by conflict in the north and centre and ensure displaced people, particularly children, are provided with health care and education and other basic public services, as well as protection from human rights violations,” a spokesperson said at the session.

It was also recommended that humanitarian assistance in Cabo Delgado is facilitated and that those who violate human rights be identified and held accountable.

This call for accountability was another common note across several interventions, with the UK calling on the government to ensure that all allegations of human rights violations and abuses are fully investigated and perpetrators held accountable.

The US detailed that the investigation should cover non-state armed groups, government security forces and private security forces involved in Cabo Delgado.

Commenting on Tuesday’s recommendations, Helena Kida also did not commit to any enquiries.

“Measures are being taken so that amid this unwanted situation, it is still possible to preserve human rights,” she said.

The Mozambican Armed Forces know the procedures for treating civilians in conflict areas, as well as prisoners of war, she said. “It is part of their training,” she stressed.

The minister stressed that the defence of the homeland is guaranteed by Mozambicans, especially those linked to the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) and their actions are guided by the Constitution and other laws.

“These FDS, in their actions, seek first and foremost to protect the populations and their assets,” she said.

A report summarising all recommendations is due to be published on Friday and a full report of the review is expected on 21 May.

Armed groups have terrorised Cabo Delgado since 2017, with some attacks claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State, in a wave of violence that has led to more than 2,500 deaths according to the ACLED conflict registration project and 714,000 displaced people according to the Mozambican government.

The attack on Palma caused dozens of deaths and injuries.

The Mozambican authorities regained control of the town, but the attack led oil company Total to abandon indefinitely the gas project site that was scheduled to start production in 2024 and on which many of Mozambique’s economic growth expectations for the next decade are anchored.

Source: Lusa / UN Web

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