The African freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) joins its member, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Tanzania Chapter to demand the immediate and unconditional release of investigative journalist, Erick Kabendera who was reportedly arrested by the Tanzanian police on July 29, 2019.
According to MISA Tanzania, Kabendera is currently being detained by the Tanzanian Police at the Central Police Station in Dar es Salaam. The motive behind the journalist’s arrest was unclear until police confirmed that the journalist was in their custody over suspicion of his citizenship. The Commander of Dar es Salaam Special Zone, ACP Lazaro Mambosasa at a press conference on Tuesday (July 30, 2019), indicated the police is interrogating Kabendera to verify his citizenship status.
The question about the Kabendera’s citizenship came up in 2013 during which government investigations concluded that there was no question about his citizenship. It is therefore quite surprising to hear that the police have arrested him over an issue in which Kabendera was cleared by the country’s ministry of home affairs three years ago.
AFEX expresses concern over the arrest of the journalist as such acts of harassment can result in intimidation of the investigative journalist and other journalists reporting on critical issues of national interest in the country.
The recent past has witnessed a growing fear and concerns over press freedom which has resulted in an increased self-censorship among media practitioners in the country. As a result of this, journalists cannot perform their candid role of informing the public and keeping the power in check which is very dangerous for every democracy.
We support MISA Tanzania’s call urging state organs to adhere to human rights standards and ensure that Kabendera, who has received several media awards is treated with respect and that all procedures leading to his release are followed as per the laws of the land.
AFEX therefore calls on the police to immediately release Kabendera and allow him continue his journalistic work. Such acts of intimidation are dangerous especially at a time when there have been increased reports of repression of rights of journalists and critics in Tanzania.