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Azori Gwanda disappearance "may discourage" investigative journalists

A man reads a copy of the local English-language daily
A man reads a copy of the local English-language daily "The Citizen", in Arusha, northern Tanzania, 23 March 2017

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on article19.org on 13 December 2017.

There is growing concern among NGOs in Tanzania at the disappearance of journalist Azori Gwanda, who has been missing since 21 November 2017.

Gwanda, a journalist at Mwananchi Communications Limited in Tanzania, was last seen in the company of unidentified men who picked him up at his working station in the Kibiti Trading centre, at the Coast Region on 21 November at around 8.00 a.m. His family reported his disappearance to the local police station on 23 November but his whereabouts are still unknown.

Prior to his disappearance he had written several articles on murders of local administrative officials, and police officers killed by mystery motorcycle attackers.

"Azori Gwanda was reporting on issues of public concern and his disappearance may discourage other investigative journalists from reporting similar incidences due to fear of facing the same fate," said Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa. "The security of journalists is a core ingredient in ensuring a free press. Such incidences of disappearance are an impediment to a safe and enabling environment for journalists to work in."

ARTICLE 19 has been monitoring the state of press freedom in Tanzania and is concerned at the increasing dangers for journalists operating inside the country. Recently newspapers have been banned and recent legislation has had the effect of stifling free speech.

"We remind the government of Tanzania to implement its human rights obligation to its citizens and journalists, especially since the nature of their work puts them in danger," added Maina.

In line with its international, regional, and national commitments, the government of Tanzania is obligated to protect and promote human rights including the right to freedom of expression which also includes promoting the safety of journalists. The Human Rights Committee in General Comment No. 34 on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, underscored the importance of a free and independent media which is not only essential for a democratic society but also for fulfilling other human rights.

ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa and the Organization of Journalists Against Drug Abuse and Crime in Tanzania (OJADACT) strongly condemns the disappearance of Azori Gwanda and demands a thorough and intensive investigation of the incidence by the Tanzanian authorities. It is indeed unfortunate that two weeks have passed since the investigations were started yet his whereabouts are still unknown.

ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa calls on Tanzanian Authorities to provide information on his whereabouts and the status of the investigations so far.

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