Maputo — New restrictions on unauthorised recording or filming should have no impact on press freedom in Mozambique, claims Carlos Mondlane, chairperson of the Mozambican Association of Judges (AMJ), interviewed in Monday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".
The restrictions are included in amendments to the Mozambican Penal Code which have been under discussion for several years, and are now taking effect.
The amendments criminalise, for example, the use of mobile phones to take photos of individuals without their consent. Mondlane regarded this as a defence of citizens' right to privacy and to their good name. Those who violate this new provision can be imprisoned for up to a year.
Mondlane insisted this does not affect the normal work of journalists, which takes place in the public sphere. The amendments do not cover recording or filming events that take place in public. "The public sphere remains the domain of journalism", he said.
But he warned that "illicit or clandestine recordings, even under the pretext of press freedom, are not allowed, if these recordings strike at the private lives of citizens". Mondlane argued this was the logical consequence of the right to privacy established under the Mozambican Constitution, and international documents such as the African Charter on Human and People's Rights.
The amendments also tighten the law against child pornography. Now anyone found to possess pornographic images of children on their computer, cell phone or in printed form, can be sentenced to a year in jail.
Drunken driving is no longer just a violation of the highway code, but a crime that also can be punished by up to a year in jail. The definition of drunkenness in the law is a level of alcohol in the blood of 1.2 milligrams per litre.
The amendments are also aimed at those churches which extort money from their followers, referred to as "the abuse and exploitation of faith". Mondlane explained that those who use "deceitful advertising or artifices to persuade believers to part with money or property" can now face a prison term of up to two years.
He noted that, in recent years, charlatans nave been taking advantage of religious faith to persuade believers that they will obtain divine blessings if they hand over their property to the preachers concerned. He mentioned no denominations in particular, but this clause is clearly aimed at the mushrooming Brazilian mega-churches.
Mondlane stressed the lay nature of the Mozambican state, meaning that citizens are free to choose whatever religion they like - but "it is also the duty of the State of protect believers against people of bad faith who enrich themselves at the expense of believers".
"The state is protecting its citizens against charlatans", he declared.
A significant alteration to anti-corruption legislation is that the Penal Code amendments now allow the preventive seizure of assets from people accused of corruption, so that they cannot dispose of those assets before the case comes to trial.