M4D & EU Mozambique Respond to Ministry Request to Help Align Draft Laws with International Standards

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Maputo, September 2021 Media4Democracy, in close collaboration with the EU Delegation to Mozambique, has completed an extensive sequence of activities to support efforts to better align two draft media laws with international standards prior to renewed consideration by the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique.

The draft laws the Law on Social Communication (Lei da Comunicação Social) and the Law on Broadcasting (Lei da Radiofusão) – as originally debated by the Assembly in March 2021 had been criticized by local and international civil society organisations, the opposition parties, media houses and journalists.

 

Media4Democracy Analysis of Draft Broadcast and Communication Laws – July 2021

Responding to a direct request for EU Delegation technical assistance from Mozambique’s Minister of Justice, Constitutional and Religious Affairs, Helena Kida, Media4Democracy Senior Expert Toby Mendel completed a legal analysis of the draft media/communication laws. The Media4Democracy review was formulated to respond to the Ministry’s request for a written analysis of the draft laws with recommendations for improvement of the text supported by examples of international/regional good practice. This was to support government modifications of the 2020 draft texts before they were reconsidered by the National Assembly during their fall 2021 session.

The Media4Democracy Analysis of the Law on Broadcasting (Lei da Radiofusão) and the Social Communication Law (Lei da Comunicação Social) was completed in July 2021. The analysis found that although the draft laws had some positive features, both laws would need substantial revisions to meet international law standards and to establish practical systems for the regulation of the media. The analysis also presented recommendations for modifications to bring the drafts in line with international standards. Regional and international best practice examples were presented in the report as was, as appropriate, language for amending the drafts.

This analysis in English and Portuguese was shared by the EU Delegation with the Ministry of Justice and Mozambique’s press regulator and Information Office (GABINFO) in July 2021 and later that month, in a limited circulation, with media organisations and sector activists.

 

Media4Democracy Seminar with government and media sector – 29 July 2021

Later that month a Media4Democracy seminar was convened by the EU Delegation to Mozambique bringing together leading media sector civil society representatives and media institutional leaders with the government to discuss the core issues relating to the draft media laws. The session was attended by representatives of the Justice Ministry, Gabinete de Informação (GABINFO) and the media sector including from the National Union of Journalists and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) – Mozambique.

Mr. Mendel opened the seminar by reviewing the findings of the Media4Democracy legal analysis while noting areas in the texts that could be revised to better meet international standards, align with existing Mozambican constitutional law and provide highly functional mechanisms for regulation and oversight of the media. Mr. Mendel pointed out that the current drafts’ restriction of the ability of international media to function in Mozambique could have a deleterious impact on the overall quality of information available and the function of local traditional media – pushing audiences online to more international media platforms and undermining the development of the local media sector.

During the seminar representatives of the media sector welcomed the Media4Democracy legal analysis, while stressing the need for significant improvements to both draft laws in order to ensure that laws undermining freedom of expression and the functioning of independent media were not adopted.

A representative of the Justice Ministry said that the Minister and others in the government stood behind the process of improving the drafts to ensure that they better met international legal standards and supported human rights obligations as well as putting in place a highly functional system to regulate the media and communication platforms. A representative of GABINFO discussed the processes that were undertaken to complete current drafts. The GABINFO representative noted that while it was important to take into account some issues raised in the Media4Democracy analysis, the draft laws as originally presented were in large part appropriate and should be considered nearly complete.

 

Media4Democracy prepared revised texts to align with international standards – September 2021

As a follow-on to the seminar, the EU Delegation and Media4Democracy held consultations with representatives of the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice requested that Media4Democracy review and provide redrafts of the original draft laws to present model texts containing practical and highly functional mechanisms to regulate the broadcast media and social communications while also meeting international human rights standards.

Detailed redrafts of the texts were completed in September.

 

Primary adjustments to the Draft Law on Broadcasting include the following:

  • The roles of government and the Superior Council for the Media were clarified.
  • The partially established system for licensing was transformed into a fully developed one which aligns with international standards.
  • The various rules for and obligations on broadcasters, both positive and negative, were amended so that they are both practical/effective and respect international standards; this includes the rules on foreign broadcasters and foreign content.
  • A new chapter providing for the development and application of professional both advertising and programme codes of conduct for broadcasters was added.
  • The section on public broadcasters was substantially expanded to provide a legal framework for transforming these broadcasters into independent public service broadcasters.

Primary adjustments to the Draft Social Communication Law include the following:

  • The most important change was the addition of a new chapter establishing the Superior Council for the Media in line with the Constitution and as an independent media regulator.
  • The scope of the law was substantially narrowed so that it only covered true mass media outlets and journalists, with electronic media covered only to the extent that they have an editorial process in place.
  • Many of the unduly restrictive constraints on journalists’ or media behaviour were removed or replaced with more appropriate systems, while others were amended to bring them into line with international standards.
  • A new co-regulatory system was created and tasked with developing and applying a code of conduct.

These redrafted texts were formally presented to the Ministry of Justice by the EU Delegation in September 2021, prior to the re-convening of the National Assembly for its fall session.