Government Further Tightens the Screws On Civic Space With Restrictive Draft Law On Non-Profit Organisations
Mozambique: Draft Law Threatens Civil Society Groups https://t.co/M4ceuACl1n— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) February 10, 2023
Draft law on non-profit organisations restricts freedom of association
On 6th September 2022, the Council of Ministers approved the Draft Law on the Creation, Organisation and Operation of Nonprofit Organisations, officially with the aim to “fight against money laundering [and] financing of terrorism”, which has been criticised for its restrictions on the freedom of association and its violation of human rights standards. The American Bar Association (ABA), in its legal analysis of the draft law, said that the draft law violates Mozambique’s constitution and the country’s obligations under regional and international human rights instruments as it:
- imposes excessive requirements for the creation of organisations;
- grants government officials overbroad discretion in deciding whether to authorise the creation of organisations;
- Imposes burdensome and unjustified reporting requirements;
- Imposes excessive civil liability on the officers and members of the organisation; and
- allows for the arbitrary dissolution of organisations.
The approval of the draft law comes after the Financial Activities Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental organisation that monitors countries’ efforts to counter money laundering and terrorist financing, placed Mozambique under increased monitoring in 2021, and on its “grey list” in October 2022, which triggered possible economic sanctions from International Financial Institutions (IFI) such as the World Bank.
In an interview with CIVICUS, Paula Monjane, director of the Civil Society Learning and Capacity Building Centre (CESC), commented on the draft law:
“If the bill is approved, it will legitimise already existing practices restricting civic space, allowing the persecution of dissenting voices and organisations critical of the government, up to banning them from continuing to operate. It will be the death of the civic movement, as only organisations aligned to the ruling party will survive.”
🇲🇿We spoke to Paula Monjane, ED of @CescMoz, about the state of civic space and new restrictions being imposed on civil society in Mozambique, resulting in a deterioration of legal, political, institutional and practical operating conditionshttps://t.co/iY1sXcQCKQ #CIVICUSLens pic.twitter.com/iRzmzm4XiT— CIVICUS (@CIVICUSalliance) February 22, 2023
In response to the draft law, civil society organisations in Mozambique joined hands in a campaign against the restrictive bill, the Campanha de contestação à Proposta de Lei das Organizações Sem Fins Lucrativos (Campaign to challenge the Proposal of the Law on Non-Profit Organisations). The campaign, which is still ongoing, has included advocacy activities, technical analysis, the organisation of national and international debates and the organisation of a two-day meeting with relevant parliamentary working committees which resulted in a broad consultation with citizens and social organisations in all ten provinces, held in February 2023.
HRD receives death threats
On 15th August 2022, unidentified individuals threw two bullets at the front door of the residence of human rights activist and director of the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), Adriano Nuvungu, in Maputo. According to officers of the National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC), the bullets are made for an AK 47 assault rifle. The bullets were reportedly wrapped in white paper with text on it. Although it was not possible to decipher all the writing on the paper, it allegedly contained the sentence “Watch out, Nuvungu”.
Nuvungu is also the president of the HRD network Mozambique Human Rights Defenders Network (RMDDH) and has been vocal on human rights abuses in Mozambique, including on corruption by the political elite.
Mozambican journalist Arlindo Chissale faces lesser charge after terrorism accusationhttps://t.co/KQxMkIXoY5— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) November 15, 2022
On 29th October 2022, police detained journalist Arlindo Severino Chissale, editor of the online outlet Pinnacle News, in the district of Balama, in the province of Cabo Delgado.
Chissale told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that he was in Balama to arrange accommodation ahead of the municipal elections the following year for opposition party RENAMO, for whom he sometimes works, while also planning to run as a candidate in the municipal elections. While in Cabo Delgado, Chissale also took pictures and wrote stories for Pinnacle News.
On 3rd November 2022, the Office of the Public Prosecutor, through its spokesperson Gilroy Fazenda, accused Chissale during a press conference of gathering information for terrorist acts and denied that Chissale was arrested while exercising his profession of journalist. The Balama District Court later that day ordered the provisional release of Chissale after the court only indicted the journalist for the illegal or unlawful exercise of professions subject to licences, under article 344/3 of the Penal Code. Chissale was released the following day, on 4th November 2022.
Journalists assaulted, threatened
On 15th January 2023, border police officers stopped community radio media worker Rosário Cardoso while leaving the offices of community radio station Thumbine in Milange, Zambezia province, and demanded what he was doing out so late. While explaining that he had finished a late shift at the radio station, and showing his branded T-shirt and ID card, the police officers held him for two hours on the side of the road with a group of other people who had been rounded up. In response to comments Cardoso made on the payment of bribes by some of the other people who were rounded up, police officers started beating the journalist with batons while saying “Mister journalist, here you don’t speak”. Police officers also initially refused to register the journalist’s complaint later at the police station.
In a separate incident on 13th August 2022, journalist Gil Namelo was assaulted by port and railway official Agostinho Conde da Silva while he was covering a visit by the governor of Zambezia province, Manuel Araújo, in Quelimane. The journalist, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Txopela and Radio Chuabo FM, was first told by the port official “You like taking pictures too much. I beat people like that and break phones” before Namelo was grabbed by the neck, dragged to a nearby vendor stall and had his arm twisted until he dropped his phone. Subsequently, Namelo was forced to delete pictures of da Silva next to the governor, who was present and witnessed the incident. A police complaint was filed.
Earlier that month, on 4th August 2022, broadcast journalists Alexandre Euébia and Ivaldo Novela, who both work for Tua Televisão, were physically attacked by five people in plain clothes, reportedly officers of the National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC), while they were covering the funeral of a police officer who had committed suicide, despite the journalists clearly identifying themselves as journalists. The perpetrators also broke the journalists’ equipment.
Media outlet subjected to intimidation, threats
In a statement published by national press freedom organisation Instituto de Comunicação Social da África Austral – Moçambique (Media Institute of Southern Africa – Mozambique or MISA-Mozambique), it was reported that the newspaper Profundos has been subjected to threats and intimidation by the municipal authorities of Nhamatanda in the province of Sofala. The latest incident occurred in November 2022, following the publication of an article by Profundos alleging nepotism in the recruitment of municipal staff, citing a report by the Institute of Social and Economic Studies (IESE). Subsequently, according to MISA-Mozambique, the mayor called the father of the newspaper’s director and editor Muamini Benjamim to ask for a meeting with the latter. During the meeting on 25th November 2022, threats were reportedly uttered by the mayor. Additionally, a masked individual was seen in the vicinity of the newspaper’s offices. Several other incidents of threats and intimidation towards the newspaper have reportedly occurred since 2021.
Use of excessive force against protesters
According to news reports, police officers used live ammunition against protesters in Gondola, province of Manica, on 18th August 2022, injuring at least three people. That day, hundreds of market vendors protested against the new location of the municipal market, which protesters say is not up to standard. Protesters barricaded National Road 6 (EN6) to demand, from the municipality, better conditions to be able to continue selling their products. The spokesperson for the provincial command of the police said that police officers were forced to use live ammunition to disperse the protesters as they had blocked traffic. 21 protesters were reportedly arrested.
On 31st August 2022, police officers used tear gas against protesting fish vendors in Maputo, who marched to the old fish market to protest the lack of compensation for the transfer from the old to the new market.
In response to protest violations in Mozambique, from excessive use of force to the prohibition of protests, CSOs organised a CSO meeting on the right to peaceful assembly in Mozambique.
Women protest gender-based violence
On 13th December 2022, hundreds of women gathered at the Praça da Independência in Maputo to protest against gender-based violence against women and girls. The protest also marked the end of the campaign ’16 days of activism against gender-based violence’.
Weeks earlier, on 26th November 2022, another march organised by civil society organisations took place in Maputo. The protest was organised to demand that judicial institutions comply with and enforce the law to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.