Reporters Without Borders is stunned to learn that community radio journalist Issa Ngumba was found dead in a forest in Kakonko, in the northwestern region of Kigoma, on 8 January, three days after he went missing. It was clear from the injuries on his body that he was murdered.
“The death of a second journalist in four months in what was one of Africa’s safest countries for the media is setting the alarm bells ringing,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are nonetheless pleased that the authorities have taken these deaths seriously by launching immediate investigations.
“For the sake of freedom of information in Tanzania, the investigation into Ngumba’s death must produce results quickly and lead to the arrest of the person or persons responsible.”
A reporter for Radio Kwizera, the 45-year-old Ngumba left his home on the evening of 5 January to look for medical plants for his second job as a traditional healer. After he was reported missing, police and civilian volunteers searched intensively until his body was found in nearby Kajuluheta Forest.
A bullet wound was found in his left arm but police said he was killed by hanging or strangulation. “The place showed clearly that there was some fighting before his death,” regional police commander Frasser Kashai said. “Police found a pistol with seven bullets and one mobile phone.”
The local media are linking his murder to a November report by Ngumba accusing Imani Paulo, a local landowner and livestock-farmer, of eating parts of the body of a shepherd he had employed. The report led to charges being brought against Paulo but he enjoys a lot of support in Kakonko.
Commenting on Ngumba’s death, the Tanzania Editors Forum told The Citizen that reporters would have to rethink their approach to safety and that they would need to be given security training.
Daudi Mwangosi became the first Tanzanian journalist to be killed in connection with his work while he was covering a political demonstration in Noyolo, in the central region of Iringa, on 2 September 2012.
When Mwangosi approached a group of policemen who were arresting a fellow journalist, several of them turned on Mwangosi and began to hit him, and then a teargas grenade gun reportedly went off, killing him instantly. A 23-year-old police officer has been arrested but the investigation is continuing.
Respect for media freedom had improved significantly in recent years in Tanzania, which was regarded as one of Africa’s best countries in this regard. It was ranked 34th out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Photo : Issa Ngumba