ARTICLE 19 has called for the immediate release of investigative journalist Eric Kabendera, who was forcibly taken from his home in Mbweni on 29 July. His treatment raises serious concerns about the safety of journalists in Tanzania.
Kabendera’s wife told The Citizen newspaper that her husband was taken by people claiming to be police officers, who forced their way into the family home. They weren’t wearing police uniforms and refused to identify themselves before confiscating the family’s mobile phones and taking Kabendera away to an undisclosed location.
Kabendera, is a prolific writer reporting for both local, regional and international publications.
Dar es Salaam’s police chief, Lazaro Mambosasa told journalists on 30 July that Kabendera was arrested over his citizenship.“Kabendera was provided with a formal police summons last week, but he did not comply. He was arrested — not abducted — on Monday due to suspicions surrounding his citizenship. He is in safe hands,” Mambosasa told reporters.
The police chief said that Kabendera is being held at the Central Police Station in Dar es Salaam’s city centre and “when the investigation is complete, further information will be provided to the public,”
Sandra Waswa, Senior Programme Officer at ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, condemned the arrest:
“It is appalling that the Tanzania government, led by President John Pombe Magufuli, allows journalists to be subjected to physical attacks and arbitrary arrests under its watch.
“This latest arrest is part of a worrying decline of media freedom in Tanzania, where it is increasingly dangerous to be a journalist or to criticise the government.
“We call for the immediate release of Eric Kabendera and urge the government of Tanzania to implement its human rights obligations to protect free speech.”
Deteriorating press freedom in Tanzania
ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa has been monitoring the state of press freedom in Tanzania and is concerned about the increasing dangers for journalists operating inside the country. Since his election in 2015, President Magufuli has ordered the arrest of his critics, and shut down of newspapers and broadcast media.
On 21 November 2017, another journalist, Azory Gwanda, went missing after unidentified men took him from his working station in Kibiti Trading centre, at the Coast Region. To date, his whereabouts remain unknown.
ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa urges the government of Tanzania to:
- uphold and protect media freedom, and create a safe environment for journalists;
- end the dismissal of government ministers who defend freedom of expression;
- publicly condemn actions which restrict media freedom;
- create an independent body to specifically investigate abuses by its officials against freedom of expression and media rights; and
- uphold constitutional guarantees on freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information, as stipulated in the Tanzanian Constitution as well as international law.
The Constitution of the Republic of Tanzania, which is founded on the principles of freedom and justice, provides under Article 8(1)(d) for its people to participate in the affairs of their Government, specifically safeguarding their expression and access to information rights under Article 18(1) and also the right of people to freedom from interference with their communications. Article 18(2) further stipulates that every citizen has the right to be informed of events in the country and in the world at large which are of importance to the lives and activities of the people and society.