Mozambique is set to introduce prohibitively expensive fees for foreign journalists, in an apparent attempt to discourage reporting from the country.
The new rules are set to take effect on August 22 — a month before crucial municipal elections, and little over a year before the 2019 presidential ballot — and have been strongly criticised by journalists and civil society organisations.
According to academic Joseph Hanlon, a Mozambique expert, foreign correspondents can expect to pay $2500 per trip for media accreditation. Foreign correspondents living in Mozambique will be charged $8300 per year, while Mozambican freelancers working for foreign publications must pay $500 annually.
Until now, registration for foreign correspondents in Mozambique has been free.
Typically, media accreditation for foreign correspondents in most African countries is around $100 — if it is required at all.
The new regulations were approved by Mozambique’s cabinet without any further consultation on June 23, according to @Verdade Online, a local digital publication.
Angela Quintal, Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said: “CPJ is concerned by reports that the authorities in Mozambique are imposing prohibitively high financial levies against foreign journalists, as well as local journalists working for foreign outlets. It is our hope the Mozambican authorities will work to ensure their country’s media landscape remains as open as possible ahead of municipal elections scheduled for October and presidential elections scheduled for next year.”
Adrien Barbier, a French journalist who lived and worked in Maputo between 2014 and 2017, told the Mail & Guardian the new fees would have prevented him from doing his job.
“It means that much fewer journalists will be able to go and report on what’s going on there, which is a pity because Mozambique has a lot to offer and plenty of stories. Reporters from big media houses won’t be affected as badly, but they don’t go often anyway, but all the others who work on small budgets will have to focus on other countries. Mozambique will fall off their radar,” said Barbier.
He added: “It will also prevent foreign correspondents from settling there, which is a pity because you can already count them on the fingers of two hands. I for example would not have been able to afford the 150 000 meticais fee ($2500) when I settled there in 2014. It’s also worrying for the two upcoming elections in October and in 2019, because the country is huge and as many journalists and observers as possible will be needed to monitor that everything runs smoothly.
”The Mozambique chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has strongly condemned the new regulations, describing themselves as “shocked by its content”.
“We believe these measures to be very penalising for the Mozambican media. As you may know, the media is not a lucrative business, nor is it capable of generating large revenues, and this legal system endangers the existence of a large number of media outfits in Mozambique. Therefore we consider it an attack on the [media] diversity and rights that the Constitution of Mozambique itself provides for,” MISA Mozambique Fernando Gonçalves told Deutsche Welle Africa.
The new media rules also raise the barrier to entry for new Mozambican media organisations, imposing a $3 300 fee for new publications and an $800 fee for new community radio stations.