A British journalist covering an insurgency in northern Mozambique has been expelled from the country, he tweeted on Tuesday, days after his accreditation was revoked over alleged irregularities.
Tom Bowker, the co-founder of the anglophone Mozambican news website Zitamar News, had his foreign correspondent card withdrawn on 29 January – a move he has said was politically motivated.
At the time Mozambique’s government said Bowker, a former Bloomberg correspondent for the country, was unable to prove the “legal existence” of Zitamar News, which is run between London and Mozambique’s capital, Maputo.
Bowker announced his departure from the south-east African country on Twitter, ostensibly just before boarding his outbound flight.
“Expelled from Mozambique and banned for 10 years,” Bowker wrote. “A politically motivated move, without legal foundation,” he added. “Thanks to everyone who helped us fight it, and who made the last 6 years so wonderful!”
A Mozambique immigration spokesman, Celestino Matsinhe, confirmed the expulsion to AFP, saying it was ordered by the interior minister.
The UK Foreign Office said it had been in regular contact with the Bowker family throughout the case and was “concerned” by the expulsion of a British citizen.
“We have raised the case with the Mozambican government and encourage the authorities to allow for a swift and transparent appeal of the decision,” a Foreign Office spokesperson said.
Zitamar, founded after Bowker left Bloomberg in 2015, provided daily news as well as analysis on Mozambique, with a particular focus on extractive industries.
Its network of journalists published several articles on an Islamist insurgency wreaking havoc in Mozambique’s remote northern Cabo Delgado province, where oil companies have invested billions of dollars in offshore gas exploration projects.
Media access to the area has been limited. Several local journalists have been arrested in the province since the unrest started in 2017.
The decision to revoke Bowker’s accreditation made no mention of Zitamar’s insurgency coverage, however, citing only alleged legal discrepancies around the site’s status and operations.
“Sad that it ended this way,” tweeted Zenaida Machado, a Human Rights Watch researcher, after Bowker’s departure. “Another embarrassing move by the Mozambique government and a sign that the country is becoming a hostile environment to foreign journalists.”