Terrorism law includes vague 'fake news' curbwhich could be used against press, bloggers

Parliament approved an anti-terrorism law on 19 May which includes several press restrictions. The most contentious states that anyone in Mozambique who "makes or reproduces publicly statements about terrorist acts, which they know to be false or grossly distorted, with the intention of creating panic, disturbance, insecurity and public disorder, is punished with 2 to 8 years imprisonment."

The original version of the clause was widely criticised and on the day of the final debate (19 May) the chair of the parliamentary First Commission suddenly introduced this revised text with the added phrase about "intention of creating panic" and reducing the jail term. Nevertheless the words "false" and "insecurity" are so vague and broad that they could be interpreted to mean that those who say that grievances will cause insurgent actions are acting illegally. As in many countries, judges are named by government, and a judge could rule that as the President says that grievances are not causing the war, that anyone who says otherwise is knowingly publishing false information.

The new law also states that "fundamental rights" guaranteed in the constitution can be overridden during the investigation of a terrorist act, including the interception of any type of communication. The original draft law would have criminalised publishing classified information, but this was also dropped at the last minute. But a civil servant leaking classified information can be prosecuted, which is seen as targeting whistle blowers. (Carta de Moçambique 20 May, Lusa 19 May, @Verdade 18 May)

The wording may still change. In Mozambique after a law is passed by parliament, the government edits the law before formal publication. So it will be necessary to check the final version in Boletim de Republica. (https://bit.ly/Moz-597)

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