Zitamar editor Tom Bowker, partner and journalist Leigh Elston, and their two children left Mozambique today, expelled by the Minister of Interior, Amade Miquidade. They are not allowed to return for 10 years. This is apparently the first expulsion of a foreign journalist in more than two decades. It comes as part of a press crackdown which included the firebombing of Canal de Mocambique and a proposed very restrictive press law (see below).
Zitamar has become a highly respected daily business newsletter with a set of local correspondents, but it also became increasingly involved in reporting on the Cabo Delgado civil war. The US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) publishes the weekly war report Cabo Ligado in partnership with Zitamar and the Maputo newsletter Mediafax. https://acleddata.com/cabo-ligado-mozambique-conflict-observatory/
The underlying reason for both the expulsions and the general press crackdown is to curb reporting of the civil war in Cabo Delgado. Last week, under pressure from Mozambique, the Pope withdrew the outspoken Bishop of Pemba, Cabo Delgado. He had strongly defended the people of Cabo Delgado and was head of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission. The Bishop and many academics and journalists have been pointing to the roots of the war as growing poverty and inequality, and the way just a small Frelimo elite benefits from the Cabo Delgado gas and rubies. Frelimo continues to portray the war as entirely Islamic State destabilisation from the outside, and does not want reporting that elite greed and police and army misconduct are causing people to join the insurgency.
The formal reason for the expulsion appears to be that Bowker is British and Zitamar is a British registered company which gives its business as "news agency", but it has no UK press registration number - because there is no press registration in the UK, and anyone can publish.
CommentWe are entering into a very difficult period in which the greed and corruption of Frelimo is the root of the civil war in Cabo Delgado. The military is weakened to a point that Total has demanded a 25 km safe zone around the onshore gas project before it resumes work, and the military cannot even reopen the only paved road from Pemba to Palma and the gas project. Frelimo needs to convince the international community that it must be supported because this is a terrorist war from outside, by Islamic State. And it needs the US and key European countries on board because they are profiting from the gas. It cannot accept anyone saying the emperor has no clothes - that the war has local roots. So the press, civil society, and academic researchers must by silenced. Others will follow the Bishop of Pemba, Tom Bowker, and Leigh Elston (Joseph Hanlon).