An exercise by a group of Mozambican civil society organisations has revealed a low level of compliance with Mozambique’s freedom of information law, with the country’s parliament among the institutions that failed to respond to a request for information within the legal timeframe of 21 days.
An alliance of civil society organizations including SEKELEKAI, MISA Mozambique, Ordem dos Advogados de Moçambique (OAM), and the Observatório do Meio Rural (OMR) presented 10 public and private institutions with information requests in June, in order to assess the institution’scompliance with the law. Only three replied within the legal timeframe.
“The absence of responses indicates that a good part of these institutions are not prepared to work according to the law’s” OAM spokesman Hélder Matlaba said at a press conference on August 8.
Veteran journalist Tomás Vieira Mario, head of the SEKELEKANI NGO which campaigns for wider use of the freedom of information law, told Zitamar News that non-compliance arises from “lack of knowledge of the law”, combined with institutions being “not technically prepared to deliver the information to the citizens in the timeframe that the law requires.”
Mario stressed that access to official information is a key civil society priority in Mozambique. “If you do not have information”, he said, “you cannot exercise your rights.”
Civil society groups will now take legal action to compel compliance with the three year-old law. “We will have to insist”, Mario said, speaking of the impending lawsuit. “It took us eight years to have the law approved in the parliament so we know we should insist.”
The ten institutions included in the inquiry include the Assembly of the Republic; four ministries; three public enterprises; Indian mining company Jindal Africa; and the district administration of Larde in Nampula province.
Fundo de Fomento Agrario was the first to respond to the information requests followed by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action. None of the other institutions furnished the information sought, as required by the law.