, 20 November, 2020 / 10:37 PM
Nine Catholic radio journalists in the Province of Cabo Delgado within Mozambique’s Pemba Diocese who were forced to flee to the bush after insurgents raided their radio station have found safety, the leadership of the National Community Radio Forum (FORCOM) has announced.
On November 9, FORCOM officials had, in a statement obtained by ACI Africa correspondent, expressed concerns about the welfare of radio journalists who had been hiding in bushes for at least 10 days following the raid.
“The National Forum of Community Radios (FORCOM) reports that the nine journalists who make up the newsroom of The St. Francis of Assisi Community Radio, located in muidumbe district, Cabo Delgado Province, are already in the apparently safe areas, after having survived 15 days in the woods, due to the intense attacks by insurgents in this District, FORCOM officials announce in the Friday, November 20 Facebook post.
The officials add that their organization “was able to provide logistical support to all journalists in order to reach the relatively safe zones, which are Namialo, Montepuez and Pemba City Districts.”
The last two journalists from the group of nine reached safety on November 16 and are “already meeting their relatives in Montepuez District,” they further say.
The FORCOM officials note that the journalists are still living in “precarious conditions” and explain, “The main problem at the moment is the lack of food to ensure the livelihoods of journalists and their families.”
Security is also an issue as the “journalists fear that insurgents will assault the entire Province of Cabo Delgado.”
On October 31, the entire editorial team of São Francisco de Assis Community Radio evacuated the radio facilities after insurgents attacked the Parish Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in the District of Muidumbe within Cabo Delgado Province where the station is located, forcing the nine journalists, together with their families, to flee and take refuge.
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.
UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported the arrival of at least 7,402 internally displaced persons on 127 boats at Paquitequete beach.
In the November 20 Facebook post, FORCOM officials recount the events of the October 31 attack when “the insurgents occupied most of the towns and administrative posts of Muidumbe District, claiming human casualties in very high numbers.”
“The terror began at 4:30 a.m. local time when we started hearing gunshots nearby. The insurgents used the strategy of initiating military offensives in the upper area of the District, where most of the population is located,” FORCOM leadership cite Hilário Tomas, one of the nine radio journalists who makes reference to the attack on several villages in the Muidumbe District within Pemba Diocese, including the “Administrative Post of Muambula, where the (Catholic) Radio is located.”
"when the insurgents realized that the Communities were fleeing to the lower part of Miangaleua, they began to follow and kill anyone they encountered along the way. I ran away with my family and were hiding in the woods for over 10 days," the Catholic radio journalist recounts in FORCOM’s Facebook post.
According to FORCOM officials, the “right to security for communities and for journalists at São Francisco de Assis Community Radio in Cabo Delgado is extremely important for the materialization of human rights and is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Mozambique as well as the right to information as an insurmountable right.”
They demand that “the necessary conditions are created to guarantee the human rights of the communities in the areas affected by the insurgent attacks in Cabo Delgado.”
“We demand that conditions be created for the operation of community radios so that they continue to fulfil their mission of informing (in order) to develop, protect and promote the human rights of local communities,” FORCOM leadership adds.
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Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa