The brutal murder of the TV journalist by police officers was the first among several attacks on journalists. Within the past year, Tanzania has gone from being the beacon of hope in the region to one of the worst human rights offenders
Today (2nd September 2013) marks exactly one year since journalist Daudi Mwangosi was brutally murdered at the hands of the Tanzania Police. His only crime was being a journalist. As the sole breadwinner, his demise meant a new life of suffering for his dependants.
To the media fraternity, Mwangosi’s assassination was to become only the first of many attacks on journalists. A 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 had been murdered. Furthermore, a reporter for Radio Kwizera, 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 extensively until his body was found in nearby Kajuluheta Forest.
A month earlier, on the night of Tuesday 4 December 2012, Shaaban Matutu, a journalist with Free Media Limited - publishers of the Tanzania Daima newspaper – had been shot by police. This happened at Matutu’s home in Kunduchi Machimbo after an alleged altercation with police officers, one of them firing and hitting Matutu in his left shoulder. It was, however, the attack on Absalom Kibanda, the Chairman of the Tanzania Editors’ Forum in March 2013 that sent a strong message of intent and put the recent crackdown against the media and freedom of expression into context. The June 2012 indefinite ban on Mwanahalisi and brutal attack against Dr. Stephen Uliomboka, had seemed like isolated incidents.
Within the last 12 months, Tanzania has gone from being the beacon of hope in the region, to becoming one of the worst human rights offenders.
For a country going through a constitutional review process, these attacks on the media are counterproductive as they have a chilling effect on any meaningful debate of the issues raised by the draft constitution and active involvement of the citizens in the subsequent democratic processes, including elections.
For all these attacks, no one has been held accountable, despite the various promises by the state, including the personal pledge by President Jakaya Kikwete after the attack on Mr. Kibanda. The journalists, like all citizens have a right to free speech and free expression without threat of attack, and the state has a duty to thoroughly investigate the reported cases of abuse and violations of these rights to their logical conclusions and bring the culprits to book.
The right to freedom of expression is not a preserve of the media alone. Any violations and attacks on the media have far reaching consequences on the enjoyment of all other rights exercised by citizens. The government of Tanzania must demonstrate its commitment to the protection of freedom of expression as proposed in the draft constitution by first; ensuring that journalists are safe from all kinds of attacks, apprehend and hold all those implicated in these attacks, including its own officers accountable; as well as allowing for meaningful dialogue.
The time for political rhetoric is over. For Mrs. Itika Mwangosi and her children, the wait to see justice for those responsible for killing her husband should not be a lifelong experience. The same applies for Dr. Uliomboka, Kibanda, Matutu and others who have been brutally attacked in the recent past.
* Paul Kimumwe works with the freedom of expression group, ARTICLE 19, in Eastern Africa, which first published this article.
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR/S AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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