Mozambique's government should cancel recently imposed exorbitant fees on local and foreign media operating in the country. The new fees are a huge setback for press freedom and access to information in Mozambique.
The Mozambican government on July 23, 2018, issued decree 40/2018, which requires foreign correspondents to pay US$2,500 per trip to Mozambique for media accreditation. Freelancers and foreign correspondents based in the country will be charged US$500 and US$8,300 per year respectively. Registration for foreign correspondents in Mozambique had previously been minimal.
"These outrageous fees will make it nearly impossible for many journalists to do their job," said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The Mozambican government should revoke these fees, which could cripple the media in the country."
The new regulations also establish new fees for Mozambican media organizations, imposing a US$3,300 fee for new publications and an US$800 fee for new community radio stations.
Local journalism organizations and other nongovernmental groups have criticized the government for approving the controversial decree without consulting the media. Misa Mozambique called the government move an attack on journalists and an attempt to "suppress the small media groups."
The director of the Mozambican Information Office, Emilia Moiane, defended the fees as a response to market circumstances and the need to impose discipline on the media.
The new fees are set to take effect on August 22, 2018. That is two months before crucial municipal elections, in which the main opposition party, Renamo, will be seeking to win control of some Mozambican cities for the first time in 15 years.
"Imposing prohibitive fees against journalists will have a serious effect on their ability to cover the October municipal elections and the 2019 general elections," Mavhinga said. "The Mozambican government should allow journalists to do their job without undue restrictions."