Filipe Nyusi’s reelection as president and a fragile peace deal with former army rebels have not slowed the worrisome decline in press freedom in Mozambique.
Mozambique claims to have almost 1,000 media outlets, mainly newspapers and magazines, but many of them are no longer active because they are not economically viable. The government-controlled, state-owned daily Noticias is the leading newspaper. O País is the most popular independent daily. Savana and Canal de Moçambique are independent weeklies with a fairly high profile. Mozambique also has about 20 TV channels and just over 50 radio stations.
A significant number of media outlets are directly or indirectly controlled by the authorities or members of the ruling party, Frelimo, which considerably undermines their independence. The elections held in October 2019, in which President Nyusi secured another term, confirmed the ruling party’s grip on most of the media. The European Union’s election observation mission described the election coverage as one-sided.
Journalistic freedom and independence are supposed to be guaranteed by the constitution and by the law on the press and the right to information. But the legislation is rarely applied, in an environment marked by growing authoritarianism and increasingly difficult access to information.
State control over the press is also exercised through media ownership and advertising. Most of the ads are placed by large state-owned companies inherited from the communist era’s centralised economy. This facilitates a great deal of interference in editorial decisions at both state and privately owned media outlets, which have little leeway to criticise the president.
The consequences of 25 years of one party rule (1975-1990) are still being felt in the public debate. Fear and a culture of secrecy still constitute obstacles to the dissemination of information. Sexism is still widespread and limits women's access to journalism.
The past few years have seen many hostile speeches and verbal attacks on journalists (a dozen in all in 2021). Accessing the north of the country, the site of an Islamist insurrection since 2017, is now virtually impossible without risking arrest. Two journalists who tried were detained for four months in 2019 and another has been missing since April 2020. The information blackout also affects international media, which are finding it increasingly difficult to get permission to cover this story. A British journalist who had been based in Mozambique for years and who founded a leading news site was expelled on spurious grounds and banned from returning for ten years.