Following the arrest of investigative journalist, Eric Kabendera on Monday, hundreds of people across the World are continuing to demand his release.
According to Tanzania’s Committee to protect Journalists (CPJ), Kabendera, a freelance journalist, was arrested from his home near Dar es Salaam by six people in plain clothes who refused to identify themselves but claimed they were ferrying him to one of the Police Station.
The country’s Police, has since come out to admit that they were behind his arrest and that they are holding in custody on the ongoing investigations about his Tanzanian citizenship.
“We are holding him (Erick Kabendera) for questioning because authorities are doubting his citizenship. We are communicating with the immigration department for further measures,” Regional police commissioner Lazaro Mambosasa told reporters at a news conference.
He said they had invited the journalist for questioning several times, but he did not show up.
The Union of Tanzania Press Clubs has in a statement in a statement demanding Kabendera’s release, noted that the issue of his Citizenship was resolved early, and thus, there is no need of further detention.
“Eric Kabendera’s citizenship had previously been questioned again and resolved in 2013, the question remains, why is he being questioned again over a matter that was resolved?” reads the statement.
“Holding Erick Kabendera over a matter that was solved in 2013, is an indication of violation of Press Freedom and human rights,” the statement reads further.
But Tanzania’s government spokesman Hassan Abbas said journalists face no threat in the country, and they are free to do their work unless they breach the law.
“Journalism as a profession in Tanzania enjoys its constitutional and legal guarantees; that’s why we have more than 5,000 media practitioners countrywide. We have more than 220 print media, over 35 TV and over 160 radios. All these perform their duties freely unless there is breach of media accountabilities,” Abbas said.
Abbas said police were only interrogating the journalist to know whether he is a Tanzanian citizen and if he was living legally in the country. It is not known where authorities think he’s from.
“He is under interrogation not for his journalistic work. Under the laws of Tanzania like any other country, the Police has a legal duty to interrogate any person who is accused of committing an offence,” he added.
Kabendera’s investigative reportage stories which mainly focus on development, have appeared in both local and international press and won numerous awards.
His arrest has ignited the popping up of the #FreeEricKabendera which is widely being used by journalists and activists across the World to demand his release.
His work has appeared in The East African, the website African Arguments, and the British newspaper
The Guardian and many more.
Press freedom has deteriorated drastically in Tanzania under the presidency of John Magufuli.
In 2016, Tanzania signed the Media Services Act in 2016 which received great criticism from activists who say the law restricts press freedom in the East African nation.
Under this law, Individuals who “write or print seditious content” or information that violates the country’s economy, defence among other areas, could go to jail for five years under the act.
Two radio stations were temporarily suspended the same year for broadcasting “seditious” content against the government, according to CPJ.
The government also suspended Tanzania’s Citizen newspaper over allegations that it had published fake news.
In 2017, freelancer Azory Gwanda disappeared in the country’s Coast Region and has not been heard from since.