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Two editors of corruption-denouncing newspaper threatened with death, attacked with machetes, acid

(MISA/IFEX) - On 5 January 2008, two editors of the weekly Kiswahili-language newspaper "Mwanahalisi" were attacked and beaten by three anonymous machete-wielding assailants in their media house in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam.

Saed Kubenea and Ndimara Tegambwage were beaten and disfigured when their assailants poured acid on their faces. Kubenea, who was admitted to Muhimbili Hospital, has lost his sight and is expected to be flown to India for further treatment. Tegambwage, one of the founding members of MISA, sustained head injuries requiring 15 stitches. He has been discharged from hospital.

The assailants have not yet been apprehended, though Kinondoni Regional Police Commander Jamal Rwambow has announced that the police are making good progress in the case.

Speaking with the media at Muhimbili Hospital, Kubenea said he understood that the event was directly related to their work as journalists. He also called on journalists not to cease exposing evils, despite threats from those who do not want alternative voices calling for the betterment of society.

Kubenea said the attack came after a series of death threats sent by text message, and after his car was torched by unidentified individuals in June 2007.

President Kikwete has also pronounced his shock at the attack, and has publicly condemned the incident, which he described as "despicable".

MISA-Tanzania, the Tanzania Editors Forum, Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT), Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) and Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) have expressed concern over the attack and have called on the government to conduct an in-depth and thorough investigation and to take action swift against the culprits. The media associations also promised to cover all Kubenea's medical costs.

Tanzanian journalists are of the view that the attack was well-planned and prompted by the fact that the newspaper has been in the forefront of exposing graft and embezzlement of public money by those in power. The media associations called on journalists and the public to join together to condemn the action.

"Today it is Kubenea, tomorrow it is somebody else; today it is the 'Mwanahalisi' newsroom, tomorrow we don't know which media house will follow," said MOAT chairperson, Reginald Mengi.

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