Mozambique: Media Under Pressure

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Although the rhetoric remains press freedom, the government is putting increasing pressure on Mozambican media and journalists and restricting foreign press.

Much tighter media regulations have been tabled in parliament and there are increasing call for patriotism and discipline. And there is now an almost total ban on foreign press and researchers in Cabo Delgado.

The contradiction was highlighted by the installation of new members of the Media Council (CNCS, Conselho Superior de Comunicacao Social), a watchdog body established under the constitution to ensure the independence of the press.

The chair is appointed by the President, and Filipe Nyusi named prominent journalist Rogerio Sitoe, who was dismissed as editor of the state-owned daily Noticias in 2013 for being too outspoken. But at the installation of the CNCS on 12 May, President Nyusi called for discipline, saying “to have discipline is to report only the truth, to combat fake news and not to incite violence and hatred.” Journalists must "aim to restore social values."

On Mozambican Press Freedom Day, 3 May, Nyusi said government defended "responsible access to information” but said the imposition of a "journalist’s professional card" was to improve the "quality of press activity". And on Mozambican journalists' day (11 April) Nyusi stressed said journalists must report with “rigour, professionalism and patriotism”. He said "the Mozambican journalist should not be a reproducer of wishes contrary to our unity.”

But there were strong responses, saying the government wants to control the media and claims the right to define words like "patriotism", "unity", "responsible" and "quality", Nyusi is speaking "not from the point of view of the need to guarantee truth and pluralism. He is making an assessment of the journalism that has been covering topics which have been damaging his image," responded Ernesto Nhanale of MISA-Mozambique (Mozambican branch of the Media Institute of Southern Africa).

The head of state defines good journalism as "reports in favour of the government,” Nanhale argues. Journalist Fernando Lima added: “What is the unity that we should have? With the corrupt, with thieves and the dishonest? Or with the people who want development, who are courageous, who don’t run away from the fighting?”

DW: Proposed law curbs press freedom "Press freedom in Mozambique under pressure" was the headline of a statement from Deutsche Welle (DW), the German government's international broadcaster. This is a strong and very usual statement for a European government. "If Parliament were to adopt the two laws in their current form, Mozambique would become one of the most closed media markets in Africa," warned Johannes Beck, DW Head of Portuguese for Africa. https://www.dw.com/en/press-freedom-in-mozambique-under-pressure/a-56962703 The statement was the in response to the March parliamentary hearings on the government's proposed press law .The full text is on https://bit.ly/MozComSoc.

MISA-Mozamique and EISA (Electoral Institute of South Africa) expressed great concern at the public hearing that the laws would criminalize journalists and restrict freedom of expression and the press.

The draft law gives government total control over the media. Journalists would be required to have a government-issued press card. Journalists, directors, and editors would have a "criminal liability" for what is published. All media, including that published on the internet, would be licensed by the state. To obtain a licence would be a bureaucratic process involving 17 documents including the source of funds and the editor's name and address, and would require a fee. Publication could only start once a licence is issued, and could be suspended by government. Any publication without licence is defined as "clandestine" and the police could shut them down and confiscate their equipment.

Editors and directors must be Mozambicans living in Mozambique. The state would have the right to acquire shares in any private media. DW's concern is that the draft law in particular restricts foreign press. Any journalist working for foreign media would need a special registration, and each foreign media would be limited to only two correspondents.

Foreign organisations and diplomatic missions would have to declare to the government the import of any publications for free distribution. Publications would normally be in Portuguese or a local language, implicitly restricting the use of English.

Except for sport and culture, radio and TV would be prohibited from transmitting foreign programmes, according to a separate bill on radio and TV.

The first challenge to the media council CNCS and its chair, Rogerio Sitoe, will be the widely criticised draft media law. CNCS has 11 members chosen by different groups:

+ 3 journalists, Eliseu Bento of Noticias and Suzana Espada of the public television station, TVM, backed by the National Journalists’ Union (SNJ), and Alexandre Chiure, backed by MISA-Mocambique.

+ 1 person appointed by the Association of Media Companies, Jeremias Langa, a senior figure in the management of the independent company Soico, which owns the television station STV, and the daily paper O Pais.

+ 1 judge, appointed by the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistracy, Jose Macaringue, the first deputy chair of the Mozambican Association of Judges (AMJ).

+ 4 members chosen by the parties in parliament, according to seats. The three Frelimo appointees are Jose Guerra (chair of the Miramar media group, owned by the Brazilian Universal Church of the Kingdom of God), Jorge Matine (former editorial director of Domingo) and Carmen de Lizi dos Santos, on the previous CSCS and with a background in administrative law.

Renamo’s appointee is Joao de Brito Munguambe. + As well as naming the chair, President Nyusi also appointed Paulina Chiziane, one of the country’s foremost novelists. Mozambique has fallen four places in the 2021 Global Index on Press Freedom compiled by Reporters without Borders (RSF). It is now 108 of 180 countries. RSF highlights difficulties in accessing information in Cabo Delgado, the influence of Frelimo on the media, and the expulsion of Zitamar editor Tom Bowker.

Journalist Ibraimo Mbaruco remains missing, more than a year after he was detained on 7 April 2020 by men in military uniforms. He worked for the Palma community radio and TV.

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