File photo: DW
Mozambican civil society organisations on Monday rejected the government’s proposal to grant itself the competence to discipline the functioning of the media regulator, arguing that this matter should be the exclusive provenance of a law approved by parliament.
The Southern African Institute of Social Communication (MISA) and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) expressed their concerns about the proposed Press Law and Radio and TV Broadcasting Law during a hearing in the Assembly of the Republic.
“In the manner in which it is proposed, the regulatory body is not independent, because its regulation is the responsibility of the executive (government),” MISA president Fernando Gonçalves said.
Gonçalves said that the legal regime of a possible media regulator in Mozambique should be created by law approved by the Assembly of the Republic and not by means of a decree introduced by the government.
The MISA director, a veteran journalist who is also editor of the weekly Savana, pointed out that a future media regulator would play a role with an impact on the exercise of fundamental rights, such as freedom of the press and of expression, requiring that its regime is approved by law and not established through a legal act of the executive.
Gonçalves also expressed concern about the criminalisation of journalists who might allegedly violate state secrets and the secrecy of justice, arguing that this may be used to repress freedoms of the press and of expression.
“The burden of keeping state secrets and the secret of justice must be imposed on state entities which are bound by this secret, because it is up to journalists to seek information,” he commented.
Ericino de Salema, director of EISA, considered the government’s assumption of the competence to regulate a possible media regulatory body a violation of constitutional principles, also advocating the intervention of the Assembly of the Republic in this matter.
“With regard to the issue of the regulatory body for the media, which is extremely relevant in the defence of the media as a pillar of democracy, the principle of exclusive reserve of competence for the Assembly of the Republic must prevail in the approval of legal diplomas on fundamental rights,” Salema stressed.
The EISA director also advocated the implementation of the principle of citizen participation in the management of public media, through the integration of representatives of media associations in the state-owned media.
Ericino de Salema stressed that the current exercise should allow the inclusion of a chapter on broadcasting rights and also the right to airtime (direito de tempo de antena), and rights of reply and of correction, as well as reaffirming the principle of independence for journalists.
“We think that it is all-important that opposition parties represented in parliament which are not part of the government should be entitled to airtime on state-owned radio and television, with a view, for example, to making a political reply to the political statements of the government,” Salema declared.
This would prevent state-owned media from being transformed into “instruments of government political propaganda”, he said.
The proposals for the Press Law and the Broadcasting Law, the subject of a hearing on Monday between the parliamentary commissions and parliament and MISA and EISA, were submitted to parliament by the Council of Ministers with the aim of adapting the legal framework for the press in Mozambique to the transformations that the country has experienced since the approval of the Press Law in force since 1991.