By Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala
DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzanian police have arrested a prominent investigative journalist, a senior official told Reuters on Tuesday, sparking calls for answers from authorities about the safety of journalists in the East African country.
Erick Kabendera, a respected freelance journalist who writes for several international publications, was detained on Monday at his house on the outskirts of the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, by a group of men who claimed to be plain-clothed policemen, according to witness accounts.
Tanzania’s Inspector General of Police, Simon Sirro, confirmed that Kabendera was taken to a police station for questioning.
“Police identified themselves and arrested him by following all proper procedure. He is still under police custody,” Sirro said.
More information about Kabendera’s arrest would be released later on Tuesday, he said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was concerned about Kabendera’s safety.
“The manner in which this journalist was taken, by men claiming to be police, is very ominous and further evidence that the press is not safe in President John Magufuli’s Tanzania,” said Muthoki Mumo, the CPJ’s Sub-Saharan Africa representative.
Tanzania said earlier this month it did not know whether another journalist who went missing two years ago while investigating a series of murders of police and ruling party officials was dead or alive.
Activists have cited Azory Gwanda’s disappearance in November 2017 as a sign of worsening conditions for journalists under Magufuli’s government, which they accuse of cracking down on press freedoms by suspending newspapers. The government rejects the criticism.
“Tanzania journalists under attack. Azory Gwanda missing since November 2017 … now Erick Kabendera abducted from home,” Maria Sarungi Tsehai, a Dar es Salaam-based communications expert and social media activist, said on Twitter on Monday.
(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala; Editing by Omar Mohammed and Paul Tait)