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Independent journalist attacked in central Mozambique

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At least eight armed men claiming to be members of Mozambique’s security services attacked the house and family of a prominent independent journalist in central Mozambique on Wednesday, beating and abducting his teenage son.

John Chekwa, a journalist with the community radio station in Catandica, a town in Manica province on the highway between Chimoio and Tete, which has been the scene of repeated clashes between government and opposition forces, said on Thursday that “more than eight” masked and armed men, claiming to belong to the Mozambican police’s Rapid Intervention Unit, beat and threatened to kill his 15-year old son and his friend of the same age.

Chekwa himself was not at home at the time of the attack, learning of it later from his son. According to his account, the attackers asked where John Chekwa was, saying “Shall we kill him here or at the slaughterhouse?”

The attackers told Chekwa’s son and his friend that they belong to the Rapid Intervention Unit of the Mozambican police force. They bound the boys’ hands and put them in the back of a black truck made by Indian manufacturer Mahindra. In the truck they found more people who had also apparently been abducted by the same men, according to Chekwa’s account.

Leonardo Colher, spokesman for the police force in Manica, told Zitamar News that the case was not known to the police, adding that the police force does not own a vehicle matching Chekwa’s description. Colher said the only incident they had heard of that day was that Renamo militia had abducted 15 people, who were later rescued.

Chekwa’s attackers also emptied his house of anything of value, including the television, DVD player, three computers, two mobile telephones, a printer, a CCTV camera, a digital camera, voice recorders, a fan, 6 thousand meticais in cash, and folders containing various documents. They also left the house without its door.

Chekwa’s son and his friend escaped when one of the other abductees in the truck threw a rock at the driver. In the confusion the boys escaped and hid nearby.

Chekwa said he has previously been blamed by local Frelimo officials for causing them to lose the most recent elections in the area, as his radio shows allow citizens to voice their grievances about local politicians. Earlier in 2016 he told Zitamar News he had been intimidated by local police unhappy with his reporting of local clashes between the government and Renamo.

Chekwa is also a correspondent for @Verdade newspaper, runs a blog, and also works with the Maputo-based Civil Society Support Mechanism (MASC).

© 2016, Zitamar Ltd. Reproduction and dissemination prohibited without written permission.

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