- Despite ten years of peace and stability, an economic boom and relatively consolidated democratic values, Mozambique's media are still struggling to gain a proper foothold. In particular the independent press, facing tough competition from subsidised state media, still suffer from lack of capital and management expertise.
Mozambique's almost 19 million inhabitants have access to a total of ten publications, of which only two are published daily. None of these two are privately owned and the independent press only manages to distribute nation-wide through costly fax services.
According to a recent report by the government-owned Sociedade de Noticias, the main daily newspaper in the country, 'Noticias', has a circulation of around 13,000 copies. The other daily in Mozambique, the 'Diario de Moçambique', which is published in the central city of Beira, has a print-run of 5,000. In addition the country has a number of newssheets that are distributed through fax, and weekly papers.
The Panafrican media network, 'RAP 21', spoke to Fernando Lima, chairman of the privately-owned MediaCoop Group in Mozambique. "In Mozambique, 'fax publications' are very popular. A couple of computers, some phone lines, a modem, and you are in business. Usually these dailies have four A4 format pages, including advertisement," says Mr Lima.
His group publishes the daily fax paper 'Mediafax', which is the most read fax publication in Mozambique. In addition, MediaCoop publishes the weekly 'Savana' magazine, which is a printed paper, and the English language 'Mozambique Inview', which is published twice monthly.
Mr Lima told 'RAP 21' that newspapers in Mozambique still face many important obstacles. "The newspaper industry is highly vulnerable. The newspapers of our country are dependent on four offset printing machines, of which three are based in Maputo," the capital, he says and continues.
- There are some political connections relating the ownership of those premises with the ruling party which could turn the operations of independent press more difficult, Mr Lima told 'RAP 21'. "Since there is not a tradition in dealing with newspapers as a business, there is some hostility from financial institutions to support newspaper projects."
Mr Lima considers the absence of a business approach to newspapers as the greatest hinder to the development of the country's media. "In most cases, there are no economic groups behind media initiatives. So the lack of capital and the lack of management expertise are the biggest challenges in the survival of Mozambican alternative media."
He also criticises the international donor community. "Foreign donors are more focused in providing support for other productive activities since media is not considered a priority. And, of course, the government lobbies strongly to direct funds to their own media, namely state radio and television," he told 'RAP 21'.
Mr Lima earlier told afrol News that most foreign funds to Mozambican media have been directed to local broadcasters that diffuse news items produced by state media. This further had marginalised private media and hampered attempts to finance new independent outlets.
In addition, state media are subsidised, get government printing and distribution aid and free news provision from state and foreign agencies. Private media, on the other hand, have to pay for all these costs and face tremendous problems distributing throughout the vast country. Mozambique stretches some 2000 kilometres from south to north and has poor communications. The result is a thwarted situation of competition between private and public media, Mr Lima earlier explained afrol News.
And as if all of this would not be enough, Mozambique has also had its share of natural disaster over the last years, which have had an influence on the development of the newspaper market. In early 2000, and again in 2001, the country was hit by floods which destroyed a large part of the country’s infrastructure. Finally, a severe drought hit the country in 2002.
- The natural disasters affected the people's purchasing power, Mr Lima told 'RAP 21'. "So this had a significant negative impact on the sales of newspapers. However, I believe that with better editorial quality and contents, Mozambique newspapers can attract a much higher readership," he concluded.
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