The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today strongly condemned Mozambique’s decision to expel British journalist Tom Bowker.
Bowker, the editor and co-founder of Zitamar News, was forced to leave Mozambique together with his partner, journalist Leigh Elston, and their two children on February 16. In addition to the expulsion, Bowker and his family are forbidden from returning the country for 10 years. He is believed to be the first foreign journalist in Mozambique who has been expelled in over two decades.
“Mozambique should immediately reverse this decision and allow Tom Bowker to return to the country and do his job”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “His expulsion confirms a growing, and highly troubling effort by Mozambique authorities to limit the space for independent journalism and control the flow of information. We urgently call on Mozambique to respect the right of all journalists in the country to work free from harassment and intimidation.”
According to news reports Bowker’s deportation is linked to his reports about the insurgency in Cabo Delago, a province in Mozambique’s northeast.
On January 29, Bowker’s foreign correspondent card was withdrawn. Authorities informed him that he would be expelled because Zitamar News was officially registered in the United Kingdom and he was unable to show the correct documentation for working in Mozambique. The expulsion was ordered by Minister of Interior Amade Miquidade.
Bowker called the move to expel him politically motivated and that it had no legal foundation. He had lived in Mozambique for six years, moving there in 2014. He is the former Bloomberg correspondent for Mozambique and founded Zitamar News back in 2015. He was based in Mozambique’s capital Maputo.
Press freedom in Mozambique has faced frequent attacks in recent years
The country’s parliament is poised to approve a new press law that would require registration of all publications. According to reports, publications could only be run by Mozambican citizens or organizations. All foreign companies must have 80 percent Mozambican investment. The new law is a follow-up to the Mozambican government’s move in 2018 to impose hefty fees on foreign correspondents working in the country.
In September 2020, journalists Luciano da Conceicao and Leonardo Gimo were attacked during the night in two separate cases. Da Conceicao, who works for DW Africa, was abducted and beaten in Inhambane. All his personal belonging were taken away as well. Gimo, a journalist for TV Sucesso, was attacked in Nampula by an assailant who stole his camera.
Just one month prior, in August 2020, the offices of the weekly Canal de Moçambique were burnt down after a group of people forcibly entered the building and set fire to computers, files and furniture.
In April, a radio journalist Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco was detained by military officers in Cabo Delgado. His whereabouts remain unknown.