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The hotly contested decree imposing new media licensing and accreditation fees in Mozambique does come into force, Gabinfo reiterated yesterday in Maputo.
The new law (Decree 40/2018) goes into effect this Wednesday (today), despite strong criticism from several sectors which fear that the decree may damage the public’s right to information.
A group of civil society organisations recently submitted a petition to the Ombudsman to request the Constitutional Council declare the document unconstitutional and unlawful.
The decree imposes a fee of 500,000 meticais, equivalent to around 7,469 Euros, for the accreditation of a foreign correspondent residing in Mozambique and an equal amount to renew accreditation.
The government starts charging a further 200,000 meticais, equivalent to 2,985 Euros, for the accreditation of a permanent national correspondent of a foreign media body and an equal value for the renewal of accreditation.
Amounts are high
The Director of Studies, Planning and Cooperation of the Information Office (Gabinfo), Cecília Gonçalves, acknowledged in a meeting with correspondents from foreign media outlets yesterday that the fees are high, but said they were sustainable. Gonçalves said the new rates result from studies carried out, but declined to elaborate.
Participants at the meeting said they were not opposed to new rates, but that the tariff approved by the government was so high as to be unacceptable, and complained that they had not been consulted.
Adoption of a regulation
Gonçalves clarified that the new fees would only be applied after a regulation establishing the norms and procedures for the accreditation and licensing in the country of journalists and foreign correspondents, national correspondents of foreign media and freelance journalists had been approved.
A working team involving Gabinfo and representatives of the various stakeholders, including correspondents, would be created to consider the new legislation, she said.
This, though, she made clear, “does not mean that the decree will be changed. What can be changed is the tariff-setting chart”.
One of the participants at the meeting, Estevão Chavisso, told DW Africa that he left the meeting unsatisfied because “there are still many doubts in general, since here is a law that goes into effect with, as yet, no rules of procedure. There is however openness over how this new document will be arrived at. This is positive, in a way, but nevertheless, the process continues to be strange because it started without this debate. This rather scared us”.
Dissatisfaction of journalists
Another correspondent, Alexandre Nhampossa, was also less than fully satisfied.
“In fact, I am not satisfied because they were unable to answer the questions asked. The question, for example, as to whether or not the fees will be reviewed has not been clarified. They could have put forward the proposal for such procedures and taken advantage of the meeting here to discuss the issue.”
José Machiane said that he had mixed feelings because on the one hand the decree made it impossible for correspondents to exercise their trade, on the other there was light at the end of the tunnel, with the government open to revisiting the fees.
“It was my expectation that the decree would be repealed and new fees would be worked out pending a new decree, because this one clearly represses journalism,” he said.
Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosário has already said that the government would continue to consolidate freedom of the press and expression, and has proposed the creation of an autonomous media regulatory body.