Mozambique News Agency


Maputo, 23 Nov (AIM) - Carlos Alberto Cardoso, editor of the independent newsheet "Metical", who was murdered on Wednesday, was born of Portuguese parents in the central Mozambican city of Beira in 1952.

He studied in South Africa, where be became involved in radical, anti-apartheid student politics, which earned him expulsion from the country.

Back in Maputo, he identified with the revolution against Portuguese colonial rule, although he never became a member of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo).

The revolution split the Cardoso family: Carlos considered himself a Mozambican and stayed to help build the new, independent state, while his parents returned to Portugal.

His exceptional talents as a writer ensured a rapid rise in the world of journalism. He worked first on the weekly magazine "Tempo", then briefly on Radio Mozambique, before he was appointed chief news editor of the Mozambique News Agency (AIM) in 1980. At the time AIM did not, strictly speaking, have a director: Cardoso was usually treated as the director, though he did not formally acquire this title for several years.

Under Cardoso's leadership, AIM achieved fame, in the country and in the region, for its campaigning coverage of the apartheid regime's war of destabilisation against Mozambique.

So persistent was AIM's work in this field, that, according to Mozambican security sources, Cardoso's name was on a list of potential targets drawn up by South African Military Intelligence.

But there were often tensions between the open and outspoken brand of journalism practiced by Cardoso, and the altogether more cautious approach followed by the Frelimo leadership and by the Ministry of Information.

In 1982 this clash resulted in the sudden imprisonment of Cardoso, apparently because an opinion article he wrote in the daily paper "Noticias" violated an obscure government guideline on covering the war that neither he, nor most other journalists were aware of. Other journalists and intellectuals protested at the jailing, warning government members up to and including President Samora Machel, that Cardoso was no enemy of the country.

Six days after his arrest he was released. Though the government was not so gracious as to apologise for the arrest, he was fully reinstated at the head of AIM.

Cardoso's outspoken approach led to a public clash with the then head of the Frelimo Ideology Department, Jorge Rebelo, at the second congress of the National Journalists' Organisation (ONJ) in 1986, when Cardoso dared to suggest that Frelimo could not rely on journalists' loyalty for ever.

Despite this, Cardoso was one of a select group of journalists invited for private briefings with Samora Machel in the last months of the president's life.

Cardoso was deeply affected by the death of Machel in a plane crash at Mbuzini, just inside South Africa, on 19 October 1986. He followed the story of the plane crash with tenacity, and the material he published then built up a picture of the likely causes of the crash - deliberate electronic interference by the Apartheid military to lure the plane away from its correct flight path.

In the late 1980s, Cardoso found himself in conflict with Information Minister Teodato Hunguana. He offered his resignation as AIM director, but initially Hunguana refused to accept it. When he tendered his resignation for the third time, arguing that he wanted to be relived of his functions as director, in order to concentrate full-time on journalistic work, Hunguana finally accepted.

Despite his political differences with Cardoso, at the handover to the new director, Ricardo Malate, Hunguana publicly praised Cardoso's work at AIM, saying that it was thanks to Cardoso's leadership that the agency had won "prestige and credibility" in the outside world.

In 1990, Cardoso was among a core group of journalists campaigning for the inclusion of a specific commitment to press freedom in the new Mozambican constitution. This campaign, including a petition to President Joaquim Chissano, entitled "The right of the people to information", and signed by over 160 media professionals, was entirely successful. The clauses on the media in the 1990 constitution, and the follow-up press law of 1991, are among the most liberal in Africa.

In 1992, Cardoso and a dozen others founded a journalists' cooperative, Mediacoop. In May of that year, the cooperative launched a new independent daily paper, "Mediafax", the declared purpose of which was to produce investigative journalism, and in- depth articles on issues not normally touched by the other media.

Edited by Cardoso, "Mediafax" reached its subscribers by fax, thus avoiding problems of distribution and paper supplies. In 1992 this was an entirely novel way of proceeding, though one soon imitated by other publications.

A dispute in Mediacoop in 1997 led to Cardoso leaving the cooperative. Taking most of the "Mediafax" staff with him, he set up his own paper "Metical", to continue his own brand of investigative journalism, particularly on economic matters.

Just as in the 1980s Cardoso had campaigned tirelessly against the South African destabilisation of Mozambique, so now he campaigned against what he regarded as the disastrous recipes for the Mozambican economy imposed by the World Bank and the IMF.

He championed the fight, first of the cashew processing industry and later of the sugar industry, against liberalisation measures that would shut down factories and cost thousands of jobs.

Cardoso took up the cause of environmentalists protesting at government plans to incinerate obsolete pesticides in the cement factory in the densely populated city of Matola. It was in no small measure due to Cardoso's work that this became a public issue, and the government eventually beat a retreat and decided to re-export the pesticides instead.

In 1998, angered by the Frelimo government's handling of the economy, and seeing no future in any of the existing right-wing opposition parties, Cardoso stood as an independent candidate for the Maputo municipal assembly.

The independent grouping, known as "Juntos pela Cidade" (Together for the City) won 26 per cent of the vote, and became the opposition in the city assembly. Cardoso then threw himself into municipal politics with the same enthusiasm and commitment he had shown in his journalism.

Among the scandals Cardoso had been investigating in the last months of his life, one stands out above all others. This was the largest banking fraud in the country's history.

In 1996, on the eve of the privatisation of the country's largest bank, the BCM, a well-organised criminal network siphoned the equivalent of 14 million dollars out of the bank. Although the names of the main suspects were known, and repeatedly published, there was no prosecution and no trial.

Persistently "Metical" has covered the BCM affair, calling for en end to the culture of impunity, and for the culprits to be brought to justice. That this was dangerous territory became clear in November 1999, when the BCM's lawyer, Albano Silva, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.

One cannot help but wonder whether the attacks on Silva and Cardoso are linked - and that, having failed to silence their main judicial opponent, the criminal sector of the Mozambican economy has succeeded in eliminating its main enemy in the media.

Mozambique News Agency
Fenner Brockway House
37/39 Great Guildford Street
London SE1 0ES

Tel: +44 (0)7941890630

Return to index