One year after freelance journalist Azory Gwanda disappeared in Tanzania, the Committee to Protect Journalists reiterated its call for a credible investigation and public accounting of his fate.
A screen shot from December 2017 displaying the front pages of Tanzanian newspapers Mwananchi and The Citizen, calling on the Tanzanian government to help find missing journalist Azory Gwanda.
Gwanda, who wrote for the privately owned Mwananchi and The Citizen newspapers, went missing on November 21, 2017. His wife, Anna Pinoni, reported seeing Gwanda leave their farm in Tanzania's Coast region with unidentified men in a white Land Cruiser, according to CPJ research. Gwanda told his wife he was taking an emergency trip, and would return the next day. He has not been seen him since.
Tanzanian officials initially promised to investigate Gwanda's disappearance, but have provided no substantive updates in the year since the journalist went missing, according to the Associated Press. In July 2018, Home Affairs Minister Kangi Lugola was dismissive when questioned about Gwanda's disappearance, and days later suggested he might have run off because of family problems, according to reports by The Citizen.
"The lack of a credible investigation into the disappearance of journalist Azory Gwanda is deeply disappointing, and reflective of our broader concerns about press freedom conditions in Tanzania," said Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa program coordinator.
Quintal and CPJ sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumo visited Tanzania in early November 2018 to meet with local journalists and gain a better understanding of the challenges they face. On the evening of November 7, at least 10 government agents showed up in their hotel room in Dar es Salaam. Claiming that Quintal and Mumo did not have the appropriate visas, the agents took them to a secret location and interrogated them for several hours about their research, including their interest in the Gwanda case.
Muthoki Mumo and I embarked on a 10-day visit to Tanzania, primarily as a networking and fact-finding mission to gauge media freedom in Magufuli's Tanzania. We had nothing to hide, and even had a letter of invitation from the government-recognised press regulator. But then I heard a knock on my hotel room door...
On November 19, CPJ representatives, including executive director Joel Simon and board member Kati Marton, met in New York with Tanzania's UN ambassador, Modest Mero, and other diplomatic representatives to deliver a letter of protest to Tanzanian president John Magufuli.
In the meeting, Mero expressed regret over the detention and violent interrogation of Quintal and Mumo, and said that such incidents "should not happen". Mero added that a CPJ team would be welcomed back to Tanzania and that appropriate visas would be provided. Mero said he would convey to the capital CPJ's request for an investigation into the detention of Quintal and Mumo.
"We appreciate the opportunity to meet with the ambassador but continue to have deep concerns about the treatment of our Africa team," said Simon, following the meeting in New York. "We hope to return to Tanzania soon and to be able to complete our work there without interference or intimidation."
*Daily Maverick also published a story on the risks of investigative journalism in the region, marking the anniversary of Azory Gwanda’s kidnapping and disappearance.
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