In the past couple of months, there have been a string of countries introducing social media and blogging taxes as a way to gag journalists and opposing views on social media.
Mozambique is the latest country to join this bizarre group. The country has introduced media fees for local and foreign journalists. Local journalists will pay $2,500 per trip for media accreditation, while foreign correspondents living in the country will be charged $8,300 per year. The annual accreditation fee for Mozambican journalists reporting for foreign news outlets will be $3,500 — at least 50 times more than the country’s minimum wage, which is estimated at around $70 per month.
The taxes have rightly attracted serious criticism, as the move has been viewed as an apparent attempt to discourage reporting from the country. Mozambique’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has warned that the imposition of licensing fees on the country’s mass media compromises the fundamental right of the public to information.
The levied taxes are in direct contravention of the guidelines contained in the legal instruments on the right to information that are in force in the country. State bodies are supposed to take measures to promote the broadest possible access to information.
The government has tried to justify the fees by claiming that they are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the sector, but none of the money raised by the fees will go to the media. 60% of the money from the fees will go to the state budget, and the remaining 40% will go to the government’s press office.
The good news is that the government is showing signs of backing down. Last week, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ana Comoana, said the decree will be discussed with interested parties before its implementation.
But why would the government of Mozambique want to gag the press? Why are African governments hell-bent on oppressing the citizens they were elected to protect?