Mozambican journalists want access to state information

Maputo- Mozambique (PANA) -- The Mozambican branch of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) is drawing up draft legislation on free access to state information.
The chairperson of MISA-Mozambique, Salomao Moyana told reporters in Maputo Thursday that he believed the country's parliament would be willing to pass such legislation.
Speaking during festivities marking World Press Freedom Day, Moyana argued that state institutions should be under a legal obligation to make information of public interest available to the mass media.
"What happens is that civil servants refuse to provide certain information that is of public interest", he said.
"Sometimes they claim it's a state secret, even when it isn't.
Sometimes they just hide behind the General Statute of State Functionaries" (this is the lengthy document that sets out the rights and duties of civil servants).
"People who hold office in public bodies take refuge in the question of professional secrecy in order to deny information to the media", Moyana denounced.
Other speakers in the debate seconded Moyana and also raised issues concerning the weak level of training of Mozambican journalists, and the poor working conditions they face.
Everyone agreed that press freedom certainly exists in Mozambique - but that it is still not being used to the full either by journalists or by the public.
There were also calls that the owners of the media (whether the state or private companies) should ensure that the money is available for the media to do their job properly - and particularly to ensure quality and impartiality in the material produced.
For lack of money, journalists are frequently obliged to beg for lifts in vehicles or aircraft of the government or from various NGOs - some participants in the debate feared that this might compromise journalists' independence.

04 may 2001 09:04:00

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