Mozambique President Signs FOI Legislation; 103rd Nation

3 January 2015

The outgoing president of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, has signed freedom of information legislation into law.

Mozambique becomes the 103rd nation with a FOI regime. The text of the law was not immediately available. The exact date of signature also could not be confirmed, but Guebuza’s term expired Dec. 31.

Mozambique’s Constitutional Council Dec. 30 confirmed that the ruling Frelimo party’s candidate Filipe Nyusi had won October’s presidential election, although the opposition still refused to accept defeat, according to news reports.

Mozambique’s Assembly on Nov. 26 unanimously passed a FOI bill on the second and final reading. (See previous article.)

The bill passed on first reading on Aug. 21, in the final days of the ordinary sitting of the Assembly. (See previous article).

Final passage came during an extraordinary sitting of the Assembly.

Supporters campaigned for a law for about eight years.

“The call for a Freedom of Information Act came, not from any political party, but from journalists,” according to an article about the bill, which also credited the Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa). “The political party parliamentary groups clearly did not regard it as a priority,” the article observed. “Even when it found its way onto the parliamentary agenda in 2013, it was not discussed because that sitting too ran out of time.”

Media Institute of Southern Africa – Mozambique chairman Fernando Goncalves said in a November statement, “We recognise that the law has some weaknesses, in the sense that it does not provide for an independent mechanism to oversee its implementation or to handle complaints from the public, but we see it as a first step in the right direction.”

The FOI bill covers public bodies and “private bodies invested with public powers, by law or by contract….”

The bill states the government must disclose annual activity plans and budgets; audit, inquiry and inspection reports; environmental impact reports; and contracts, including the revenue and expenditure involved in them.

Requesters are not required to justify their requests. Answers are to be provided in 21 days with only photocopying charges allowed.

State secrets defined by law are exempted. So are documents concerning ongoing court cases and information that could endanger the victims of crimes, witnesses or whistle blowers.

“More controversially, sensitive information on banks and their clients cannot be revealed, and commercial and industrial secrets are also protected, if knowledge of these matters by competitors could damage the productivity of the company concerned,” the article states.

The Mozambique bill was written about by Alfredo Libombo, Executive Director, ACREDITAR, Mozambique. (See previous report.)


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