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Mozambique

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press. The government did not always effectively protect or respect these freedoms. Academics, journalists, opposition party officials, and civil society reported an atmosphere of intimidation and fear that restricted freedom of speech and press. Journalists expressed concern regarding government intimidation by security forces.

Freedom of Expression: There were no official restrictions on the ability of individuals to criticize the government or on the discussion of matters of general public interest. Police imposed de facto restrictions on free speech and expression throughout the year. Opposition and civil society members complained they could not freely criticize the government without fear of reprisal. The opposition Renamo Party accused the government of using the military and police to prevent its candidates from undertaking political activities.

Press and Media, Including Online Media: Media outlets and individual journalists regularly reported on a broad range of topics and criticized the government, the ruling party, and prominent political figures. The vast majority of critical articles did not result in retaliation from the government or the ruling party. Civil society organizations and journalists, however, stated the government and ruling party exerted substantial pressure on all forms of media and took retaliatory action when unspecified limits were crossed. In August parliament passed a law criminalizing photographing or recording video and audio of individuals without their consent. Conviction of violating this law is punishable by up to one year in prison.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists were subjected to violence, harassment, or intimidation due to their reporting. For example, civil society and journalists stated that authorities harassed journalists who reported on the involvement of finance minister Manuel Chang in the “Hidden Debt” scheme in which nearly 124 billion meticais (two billion dollars) in government-backed loans were secretly contracted through a scheme that involved extensive bribery and kickbacks, including to sitting government officials.

On January 5, soldiers arrested journalist Amade Abubacar in Cabo Delgado Province as he was interviewing residents who were fleeing insurgent attacks. He was reportedly held incommunicado in a military detention facility until his lawyers succeeded in obtaining his transfer to a civilian prison. Authorities stated he was suspected of terrorist activity and charged with violating state secrets. Amnesty International stated mistreatment of Abubacar while in detention included “physical aggression, forcing him to sleep handcuffed” and food deprivation. It concluded that this amounted “to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or even torture.” On April 23, Abubacar was released, but his freedom of movement was restricted. On September 5, the public prosecutor of Cabo Delgado Province charged him with “public instigation through the use of electronic media,” “slander against forces of public order,” and “instigation or provocation to public disorder.” As of November the Cabo Delgado Provincial Court had yet to accept the case.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: There were no official government guidelines for media. Journalists in the state-controlled and private media reported pressure to self-censor. Some journalists stated critical reporting could result in cancellation of government and ruling party advertising contracts. The largest advertising revenue streams for local media came from ministries and state-controlled businesses. Domestic and international observers viewed the January 5 arrest and jailing of journalist Amade Abubacar while interviewing persons displaced by violence in Cabo Delgado Province as an example of de facto censorship.

National Security: Authorities cited antiterrorism and national security laws to arrest journalists who attempted to report on violence in Cabo Delgado Province. On February 18, journalist Germano Adriano was arrested, charged with using technology to violate state secrets, and jailed. He was released in April. By November he had yet to be tried.

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content; however, there were reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. For example, members of civil society reported government intelligence agents monitored email and used false names to infiltrate social network discussion groups, and internet freedom advocates believed the intelligence service monitored online content critical of the government.

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events; however, some academics reported self-censorship. Although the law provides for separation of party and state, in Nampula and Zambezia Provinces, school principals and teachers were required to contribute money to the ruling party’s election campaign. Teachers in both provinces who refused to donate to the campaign were threatened with salary reductions. Some teachers were required to attend Frelimo election rallies and events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association. The government did not always respect these rights.

In January staff members of the Center for Public Integrity (CIP) distributed free T-shirts in front of their office with the slogan, “I’m not paying hidden debts!” referring to the Hidden Debt scandal in which state-owned companies contracted two billion dollars in debt for fishing and maritime security-related projects. According to CIP, police physically prevented CIP staff members from distributing the T-shirts.

The Ministry of Justice, Constitutional, and Religious Affairs did not act on the request for registration of the Mozambican Association for the Defense of Sexual Minorities (LAMBDA)–the country’s only lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) advocacy NGO–by year’s end. Although the registration process usually takes less than two months, LAMBDA’s request has been pending since 2008 despite resubmissions of its application. Civil society leaders and some diplomatic missions continued to urge the ministry to act on LAMBDA’s application and to treat all registration applications fairly. In 2017 the Constitutional Court ruled LAMBDA and other groups could not be precluded from registration based on “morality” but did not direct the government to grant official recognition to LAMBDA. LAMBDA continued to pursue a previously filed case with the Administrative Tribunal–the highest jurisdiction for administrative matters–specifically seeking to compel the government to respond to its registration request.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

The International Organization for Migration estimated there were more than 90,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country in October due to Cyclones Idai and Kenneth.

In March in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, UN agencies and international donors delivered life-saving assistance including emergency shelter and nonfood items (solar lamps, blankets, jerry cans, buckets, mosquito nets, kitchen sets) to nearly 150,000 IDPs. In April, UN agencies and donors provided a short-term presence for coordination and protection monitoring of approximately 25,000 IDPs in Cabo Delgado immediately after Cyclone Kenneth made landfall. In April the World Food Program stated it was providing emergency food assistance to more than 30,000 IDPs displaced by to extremist violence in six northern districts of Cabo Delgado Province.

f. Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Durable Solutions: The government worked closely with UNHCR to implement a local integration program for refugees in communities in Maputo and nearby Matola, and at the Maratane Camp in Nampula Province. UNHCR referred a limited number of refugees for third-country resettlement.

Not applicable.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

In August the government and the main opposition party, Renamo, signed cessation of hostilities and formal peace agreements, formally ending four years of sporadic conflict. The National Assembly subsequently enacted the agreements into law. On July 31, the demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration process for Renamo combatants began with 350 fighters in the Gorongosa District of Sofala Province.

Recent Elections: On October 15, the country held national elections for president, parliament, and provincial assemblies. Domestic and international observers noted voting day procedures were generally orderly but lacked transparency and accountability during vote tabulation. The EU, European Commonwealth, and civil society organizations reported significant irregularities. These included delays in observer credentialing, nonregistration of more than 3,000 independent and opposition observers, the arrest and intimidation of some opposition observers, late release of campaign funding to political parties, intentional spoiling of ballots, vote falsification, and inordinately high voter turnout in some districts that indicated ballot box stuffing. Renamo and the Democratic Movement of Mozambique did not recognize the election results as legitimate, and opposition party members of the National Election Commission (CNE) voted unanimously to reject certification of the provisional results. The president of the CNE acknowledged that irregularities occurred and stated that the Constitutional Council would determine whether the elections were free, fair, and transparent. The council had yet to rule on the matter by year’s end.

The EU Election Observation Mission stated that the electoral process occurred on an “uneven playing field” in favor of Frelimo because it benefitted from the advantages of incumbency and may have exercised political influence on electoral administration. Some observers and local press reported that Frelimo party operatives collected voters’ names and their voting card numbers as a means of intimidating them into voting for Frelimo.

During the campaign period, representatives of opposition parties and civil society complained of increased acts of violence, intimidation, and bias by the government and Frelimo operatives. For example, on October 7, four off-duty police officers shot and killed human rights activist Anastacio Matavel, executive director of FONGA-Gaza NGO Forum, as he was leaving domestic observer election training. Other acts of alleged election-related violence were reported throughout the pre-election campaign period, including shootings, stabbings, and beatings.

During vote tabulation, civil society and international observers noted that election authorities did not exercise systematic control of ballots, which observers stated created opportunities for tampering or altering voting results.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Frelimo has dominated the political process since the country’s independence in 1975. Opposition political parties could operate, yet there were occasional restrictions on meetings, unlawful arrests, and other forms of interference and harassment by the government. The opposition contended Frelimo manipulated voter registration numbers. For example, in June in Gaza Province, a ruling party stronghold, the CNE registered 300,000 more voters than the National Statistics Institute estimated were eligible to vote based on census data. Renamo challenged the accuracy of the voter registration numbers in the Constitutional Court, and civil society organizations offered to fund an independent audit. The court rejected the challenge on procedural grounds. In August the CNE rejected the request to conduct an audit, citing an existing criminal investigation into opposition party allegations of voter registration irregularities by the public prosecutor.

In the October 2018 municipal elections, some opposition candidates were prevented from competing due to inconsistent application of eligibility rules. In addition inconsistent application of the law that prohibits campaign activity outside of designated time periods favored Frelimo candidates.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Women and members of many ethnic groups held key political positions. Nevertheless, only seven of 23 ministers in the president’s cabinet were women. Frelimo used quotas to provide for female representation on its central committee.

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