At a press conference yesterday in Dar es Salaam, the head of the police confirmed Kabendera’s arrest and said he was being questioned on suspicion of having obtained his Tanzanian citizenship fraudulently.
A freelancer for respected media outlets such as The Guardian and The East African, Kabendera is known for his investigative coverage of Tanzania’s politics and economy. He co-authored a story on 20 July about tension within Tanzania’s ruling party and an alleged plot to prevent President John Magufuli from running for a second term.
“Using a team of six people and two days of questioning – so far – just to verify identity papers clearly suggests an attempt to intimidate a journalist who is critical of the government,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “This journalist must be released without delay. His arrest is the latest manifestation of the steady decline in press freedom since John Magufuli became president in 2015.”
RSF has learned that Kabendera’s family and lawyers were finally allowed to see him today. An application has been filed for his release on bail. It will be heard tomorrow morning.
What with arrests of journalists, media closures, legislation designed to restrict free speech and the freedom to inform, and impunity for crimes of violence against journalists, the press freedom situation has deteriorated dramatically in Tanzania in recent years.
In an interview three weeks ago, the foreign minister referred to Azory Gwanda, a journalist who has been missing for more than a year and a half, as having “died” but he later retracted. Two press freedom defenders who were investigating Gwanda’s disappearance were deported at the end of last year. The leading independent daily The Citizen was suspended for a week in February for a supposed exchange rate mistake.
Tanzania is ranked 118th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index after falling 47 places since 2016, more than any other country in the world during the same period.