London: EMBARGO: 00.01 hours GMT, Friday 27 October 1995
MOZAMBIQUE: Further reforms needed to guarantee freedom of expression, says ARTICLE 19
The Mozambique government should introduce a freedom of information law and take other steps to promote a truly independent media, ARTICLE 19 said today (London, 27 October 1995) in a new report published on the anniversary of the country's first ever democratic elections.
The 30 page report, "Mozambique: Freedom of Expression and the "Vote for Peace"", welcomes the loosening of official controls over the media in the run-up to, and following the election, but says that much still needs to be done to guarantee press freedom.
"Mozambique has come a long way since the agreement which ended three decades of bitter conflict", according to ARTICLE 19's Director, Frances D'Souza. "The election last year was a resounding vote for peace. But further action is needed urgently both to guarantee freedom of expression and to address the legacy of the past."
ARTICLE 19 says the government should rapidly amend the defamation law, which can be used to imprison journalists who criticise the President or even foreign heads of state, to bring it into line with international standards and to take account of the "public interest". It also questions the absence of any moves to establish a Truth Commission, like that set up in South Africa, to account for the hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans who were victims of "disappearance", political killing or other abuses in the past.
"Those who lost their loved ones in the war should have the right to information, where it exists, about their fate", said Frances D'Souza. "And this `consensus for silence', if it continues, must not be allowed to hamper future efforts to write objective historical accounts of the war, either in the media or in academic institutions."
ARTICLE 19's report provides a detailed account of the conduct of the elections and of the role played by the media, including Radio Mozambique (RM), the main communications medium. Despite previous measures to loosen RM's ties with the ruling FRELIMO party, close monitoring revealed a continuing pro-FRELIMO bias in RM's coverage in the early stages of the election campaign; however, after meetings at which this evident bias was relayed to RM staff a greater balance was achieved as the campaign progressed.
For further information, please contact: Catherine Drucker or Linda Kirschke (London, ARTICLE 19, tel: +44 171 713 1357; fax: +44 171 713 1356)
ARTICLE 19, the International Centre Against Censorship, promotes freedom of expression worldwide and defends the victims of censorship.