, 13 November, 2020 / 11:35 PM
The leadership of the National Community Radio Forum (FORCOM) in Mozambique has expressed concerns about the welfare of a group of Catholic journalists in the Province of Cabo Delgado within Pemba Diocese who have been hiding in bushes for at least 10 days after insurgents raided their radio station.
“The National Forum of Community Radios (FORCOM) received the disgusting news of the forced evacuation of the entire editorial team of São Francisco de Assis Community Radio from the radio’s facilities as a result of an attack carried out by the insurgents in the District of Muidumbe, Cabo Delgado province,” FORCOM officials say in a statement issued November 9.
They add, “On October 31, the insurgents occupied the Parish Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus where the radio station is located, forcing the nine journalists, together with their families, to flee and take refuge for more than ten days in the woods, heading for the nearest districts, Mueda and Montepuez, supposedly considered safer.”
Quoting Fr. Edgard Silva Júnior who is the Coordinator of the radio station, FORCOM leadership says, “It is suspected that the entire structure of the radio station has been completely destroyed by the armed men. The equipment that was rescued is being transported to the city of Pemba.”
“Information held by FORCOM relates that most journalists in the woods are incommunicado and are surviving in deplorable and insecure conditions,” FORCOM leadership laments in the November 9 statement seen by ACI Africa correspondent.
According to FORCOM leadership, “Through efforts made by Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, it was possible to get in touch with journalists Daniel Nantuma and Beatriz João who have been walking for days towards Mueda, and Costa Marcelino and Hilário Tomás, who are heading for the Administrative Post of Nairoto, Montepuez District, Cabo Delgado Province.”
The violent insurgency that has been going on in Mozambique’s Province of Cabo Delgado since 2017 has negatively affected the lives of over 600,000 people, with more than 200,000 displaced across the region, according to UN Reliefweb.
In recent weeks, at least 7,402 internally displaced persons arrived on 127 boats into Paquitequete beach, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported.
In October, Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of Mozambique’s Pemba Diocese within the Cabo Delgado Province appealed for aid for thousands of displaced families saying they are experiencing “a deep humanitarian crisis.”
In their November 9 statement, FORCOM officials highlight some of the messages they received from some of the Catholic radio journalists who are hiding in bushes within the Catholic Diocese of Pemba.
“Good morning, Reverend (Father). Our houses in Aldeia 24 de Março were burned down. They’re killing. Too bad this time. Father, if you have any money, I ask you to remove some family members up here where I am in Montepuez,” one of the journalists writes to the Coordinator of the radio station, Fr. Edgard.
The journalist recounts, “We are still in the bush. The situation is very complicated.”
“We are dying of thirst and hunger, three days with my nephews without eating anything. So, we are asking for help,” the journalist appeals to Fr. Edgard and adds, “Father, the situation is still bad. I have been in the woods for five days with my family, we are in bad shape. My father was beheaded.”
“From what I experienced these four days of the terrorist attacks, everything indicates that this time it will be complicated for us to go back to live there. The shooting does not stop, and the houses are being burned down,” the journalist further explains in the message.
According to FORCOM leadership, “Armed violence has reached levels never seen before, with the assault and occupation of the main villages in the districts.”
“FORCOM is putting in place mechanisms to guarantee the necessary support for journalists who are in the woods and safeguard their physical integrity and safety,” FORCOM officials say in their message.
They add, “FORCOM stresses that the right to information is an unconditional principle within the framework of the materialization of human rights and is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Mozambique and in the Right to Information Law as a fundamental and irreducible right.”
They invite the Mozambican government to “guarantee the security of its citizens,” adding that "the necessary conditions be created to guarantee the human rights of the communities in the affected areas in Cabo Delgado.”
“We demand that conditions be created for the operation of the São Francisco de Assis Community Radio, so that staff can continue to fulfil their mission to develop, protect and promote the human rights of local communities,” FORCOM officials say in their November 9 statements obtained by ACI Africa correspondent.
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Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa