The Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) is appalled at the recent harassment of its member and Tanzanian investigative journalist Erick Kabendera, following recent moves by Immigration officers to arrest, detain and interrogate his parents in Kagera region.
Apparently an official by the name of Kaaya told Kabendera’s parents to warn him that “If he pretends to know it all, it will land him in trouble but if he is humble everything will be alright.” Eric was also accused of “selling State secrets to European powers.”
The arrest and interrogation of Kabendera’s parents occurred within six weeks after bandits stormed his home on three occasions causing extensive damage to personal property and documents.
FAIR is cautious not to link the incident with Kabendera’s decision to testify against local newspaper owner Reginald Mengi, in which Mr Mengi lost the case of defamation in London against a British couple who fled Tanzania.
We support Kabendera’s efforts in the dangerous field of investigative journalism, and his will to “continue to tell the truth as part of serving my country even in so doing my life would be in danger”.
FAIR colleagues note that Kabendera, like other journalists in Africa, may be working on many investigations at the same time which makes it difficult to find an immediate potential suspect.
Recently the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported in its 2012 press freedom review that Tanzania was becoming a danger zone for media workers.
A journalist was killed in the line of duty in September 2012, when police attacked veteran TV reporter Daudi Mwangosi, who was shot point-blank with a tear-gas canister and died at the scene. According to the independent Media Council of Tanzania, police failed to question six suspects from its ranks.
The government of Tanzania has access to 17 repressive, media-related statutes to crack down on critical coverage. For example under the Newspaper Act of 1976, the information ministry indefinitely banned the Swahili-language weekly MwanaHalisi in July 2012, on vague charges of sedition and false reporting in unspecified articles.
We urge the Tanzanian government to take immediate steps to track down the culprits, ensure the safety of Kabendera and his family and review its commitment towards upholding press freedom.
We also call on local Tanzanian media organizations and journalists to show support in the form of protest events and letters of support.
Issued by FAIR on 25/02/2013.
For more information contact director[at]fairreporters.org