Under the decree, originally due to take effect on 22 August, a foreign journalist would have to pay 8,300 dollars a year to be based in Mozambique and 2,500 dollars to make a reporting visit, while a Mozambican journalist working for a foreign media outlet would have to pay an annual 500 dollars (seven times the monthly minimum wage in Mozambique).
The decree would also hike the price of broadcast licences for radio and TV stations. The price would range from 13,600 dollars to 50,000 dollars, according to the type of media and the extent of the territory that its broadcasts cover.
“If the decree is implemented in its current form, Mozambique would hold the record for the most expensive African country to report in, said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. Most foreign journalists would have to leave because they could not afford their accreditation and many independent media would have to close. This level of economic harassment, which is unprecedented in Mozambique, would constitute a grave violation of press freedom and access to information, which are guaranteed by the constitution.”
The government’s original justification for the decree, which was to take effect just a few weeks before crucial local elections, was the need to regulate the media like any other sector of the economy and make them “contribute to the coffers of the state.”
But, because of an outcry, the authorities finally announced that the decree would not be implemented until a commission that includes media representatives has made proposals about the size of the sums being demanded.
Mozambique’s regional neighbours do not charge foreign journalists such vast amounts for accreditation. South Africa and Madagascar impose no charge at all. Journalists must pay 3 dollars for accreditation in Zambia and 100 dollars in Malawi. The charges range from 100 to 700 dollars in Zimbabwe, and can be as much as 1,500 dollars for a visiting foreign TV crew in Tanzania.
A general election is due to be held next year in Mozambique amid increasingly violent attacks in the north of the country by an Islamist rebel group known as Al-Shabab.
Mozambique is ranked 99th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index, after falling six places. This was one of the biggest falls in Africa.