Mozambique’s government has recently imposed fees on local and foreign media operating in the country, Human Rights Watch reports.
In July, the Mozambican government issued decree 40/2018, which requires foreign correspondents to pay $2,500 per trip to Mozambique for media accreditation. Freelancers and foreign correspondents based in the country will be charged $500 and $8,300 per year, respectively. Mozambican media organizations will also pay ‘journalism tax’.
Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world. Over 50% of its citizens get by on $30 per month.
“Imposing prohibitive fees against journalists will have a serious effect on their ability to cover the October municipal elections and the 2019 general elections,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
The director of the Mozambican Information Office, Emilia Moiane, defended the fees as a response to market circumstances and the need to impose discipline on the media.
It seems that Belarusian freelancers contributing to Belsat TV have something in common with their Mozambican colleagues. Instead of fees, they are forced to pay fines for working without accreditation (violation of Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code of Belarus).
In H1 2018, freelance journalist Kanstantsin Zhukouski has been BYN 4,189 fined; cameraman Ales Barazenka – BYN 3,307, cameraman Andrus Kozel – BYN 4,531. Reporter Volha Czajczyc got fines to the amount of BYN 5,389 (appr. $2,700). As one can see, she even could purchase a single accreditation to work in Mozambique.
Belsat TV, which has been broadcasting for over 10 years, has been denied accreditation for its journalists. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly declared that it could not issue any accreditation to Belsat because the journalists working for the TV station … break the law.
Thus, the circle closes: journalists are denied accreditation because they break the law and they break the law, because they work without accreditation that they seek. And it explains the existence of absurdist Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code, which provides punishment for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’. If you have accreditation, you are allowed be a journalist. If you do not have it – you are outlawed. According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, last year, 94% of fines for alleged illegal manufacturing of media materials fell on the journalists of Belsat
The sad truth is the independent journalists’ cases is a revenue source for the state budget: in 2017, the total amount of fines for their contribution to Belsat TV reached BYN 52,693 (over $25,000); for the first six months of 2018, it has already exceeded BYN 46,000 ($23,000).