July 11, 2019

Tanzanian minister says missing journalist “died,” but offers no explanation

After the Tanzanian foreign minister’s casual reference in a BBC interview to the death of a journalist missing for the past 19 months, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accuses the government of displaying a lack of consideration in its handling of the case and demands the release of the details of its investigation.

The journalist, Azory Gwanda, who worked for the Kiswahili newspaper Mwananchi and its English-language version The Citizen, disappeared in the eastern coastal region of Rufiji on 21 November 2017 while investigating the unexplained killings of local officials.

Asked during an interview yesterday for the BBC programme “Focus on Africa” if he knew where Gwanda was, foreign minister Paramagamba Kabudi referred to him as having “died," without going into any detail. He added: “The state is not only dealing with Azory Gwanda. The state is dealing with all those who have unfortunately died and disappeared in Rufiji.”

Gwanda’s disappearance has been the subject of many civil society requests for information to which the Tanzanian government never responded. RSF is among those who have been pressing for a proper investigation into his fate.

“After a year and a half of silence and minimization of this case, the sudden announcement of this journalist’s death without any explanation is shocking,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “If the authorities did carry out an investigation, we demand the publication of its findings. A journalist’s disappearance or murder must not go unpunished.”

Tanzania is ranked 118th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index after falling 25 places in a single year.