Is a VPN needed in Mozambique?
Mozambique, a Southeast African nation known for its stunning coastline and rich cultural heritage, faces a series of challenges and opportunities in the digital realm. While the country has made significant efforts to expand internet access, especially in urban areas, the digital divide remains a pressing issue. Rural regions are often left behind, affecting the broader landscape of digital rights and online freedoms in Mozambique. In addition to infrastructural challenges, the nation grapples with issues related to internet censorship, government surveillance, and data retention, set against a backdrop of political instability and regulatory ambiguity.
Freedom of Expression and Censorship
While the Constitution of Mozambique enshrines the freedom of expression, press, and the right to information, these rights are increasingly under scrutiny. Data from the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) indicates that these constitutional guarantees are under attack.
Adding to the concerns, drafts of new media and broadcasting laws have been debated in the Mozambican parliament. If adopted, these laws could criminalize journalists and severely restrict both domestic and international media, making Mozambique one of the most closed media markets in Africa. These proposed regulations would also limit the number of correspondents from international media outlets and ban the rebroadcasting of political content from international broadcasters.
Furthermore, Mozambique is in the process of introducing anti-terrorism laws aimed at combating the spread of false information on terrorism. However, there are concerns that these laws could conflict with the Constitution, particularly the chapters on Freedom of Expression and Press.
P2P and Torrenting Policies
In Mozambique, there is no explicit legislation that directly targets Peer-to-Peer (P2P) services or torrenting. However, the country does have intellectual property laws that could potentially be applied to illegal file sharing or the distribution of copyrighted material without authorization.
While there haven’t been high-profile cases specifically targeting torrenting activities in Mozambique, the absence of such cases should not be interpreted as an endorsement or lax regulation by the government. It’s essential for users to be aware that intellectual property laws do exist and could be enforced.
Given the evolving legislative landscape around media laws and freedom of expression, it’s possible that future regulations could also impact P2P services and torrenting, although this is speculative at this point.
Government Surveillance and Data Retention Laws
Mozambique’s telecommunications sector has seen major developments, with three mobile phone companies—Mcel, Vodacom, and Movitel—accounting for over 14 million subscriptions as of 2019. A key player is TMcel, a giant publicly owned company formed by merging Mcel with Empresa Publica de Telecomunicações. This state-controlled entity has direct control over key data transport infrastructure, including the fiber optic network.
While the ICT market grows, reports indicate an intensification of government monitoring of electronic communications, including wiretaps and public security cameras. In 2016, it was reported that the government used a system designed by ZTE Corporation, a Chinese telecommunications company, to intercept and monitor various forms of citizens’ communications, from text messages to social media activity. The system captures data in real-time and there is significant secrecy about who manages these systems, raising concerns about its usage for espionage.
Additionally, Mozambique has seen a surge in the installation of high-definition surveillance cameras. Although touted for traffic control and crime prevention, there’s little evidence of their effectiveness in solving crimes. Further, the $140 million project funded by China and implemented by ZTE and a local company raises concerns about data privacy and potential misuse for surveillance rather than public security.
It’s also noteworthy that Chinese companies like ZTE and Huawei are key players in Mozambique’s telecommunications sector. Given the lack of specific regulation on data privacy and the involvement of state-controlled and foreign entities in telecoms, there are valid concerns about the privacy and security of individual data.
Social Media Access
In Mozambique, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are generally accessible and widely used, especially among the urban youth. However, the accessibility of these platforms is not evenly distributed across the country due to infrastructural limitations and low internet penetration rates, which stood at around 6.6% in 2017 but was estimated to grow to around 20% by 2021.
While there is no official censorship of social media, the proposed media laws and the government’s surveillance capabilities raise questions about the privacy and security of social media use in Mozambique. The significant role of state-controlled and foreign entities in the telecommunications sector also adds a layer of complexity to how social media platforms may be monitored or regulated in the future.
Moreover, the government’s capacity to monitor electronic communications, including social media activities, puts users at risk of surveillance, potentially chilling free speech and political discourse. In this context, the privacy of social media users is a matter of growing concern.
Data Retention Laws
In Mozambique, there is currently no specific regulation governing data retention, adding another layer of ambiguity to an already complex landscape. However, the telecommunications companies operating in the country are required to cooperate with legal processes, which can include handing over user data for government investigations. Given the reported increase in government surveillance activities, this presents a potential risk for the privacy and security of individual data.
The absence of a comprehensive legal framework for data protection further complicates matters. With the government’s ability to monitor electronic communications in real-time and the lack of clarity about who manages these surveillance systems, there are valid concerns about how data is stored, accessed, and used. The situation is exacerbated by the significant role that state-controlled and foreign entities play in the country’s telecommunications sector.
Mozambique’s landscape for digital rights and privacy is a study in contrasts. While the country has made strides in improving telecommunications access, it faces significant challenges in the form of proposed media laws, intensifying government surveillance, and the absence of comprehensive data retention laws.
The lack of specific legislation governing data privacy, combined with the government’s increasing surveillance capabilities, makes the protection of individual rights and freedoms a pressing concern. This situation is further complicated by the influence of state-controlled and foreign entities in the telecommunications infrastructure.
As Mozambique’s digital landscape continues to evolve, it will be essential for citizens and the international community alike to closely monitor these developments. The absence of clear legal frameworks on data retention and surveillance merits particular attention, as it could have far-reaching implications for individual privacy and freedom of expression.