Tanzanian journalist arrested for publishing 'false' news amid media crackdown

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 23 2019 08:24 PM

Tanzania's Watetezi TV is calling for the release of journalist Joseph Gandye, who was arrested on allegations of publishing "false information" amid a media crackdown. Photo from Watetezi TV's Twitter account

NAIROBI, KENYA - A Tanzanian journalist has been arrested for "publishing false information" after broadcasting a story about police brutality, his lawyer said Friday, the latest crackdown on free press in the country.

Joseph Gandye, who works for local station Watetezi TV, was arrested Thursday in the financial capital Dar es Salaam and held in police custody overnight.

His lawyer Jones Sendodo said Gandye was transferred to Iringa in Tanzania's south on Friday.

"He is accused of publishing false information," Sendodo told AFP.

The Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which founded Watetezi TV last year, said Gandye was arrested after airing a story on August 9 about police in Iringa forcing six young detainees to sodomize each other.

His arrest comes less than a month after another Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera was detained in circumstances condemned by rights groups.

Kabendera, a respected journalist and government critic, was initially questioned over his citizenship before being threatened with sedition charges.

But in court, these were dropped and he was charged with organized crime and financial offenses.

The US and British embassies in Tanzania have formally expressed their concern over a "steady erosion of due process" in the country, underscoring Kabendera's plight as a case in point.

Accusations of "sedition" and other vague offenses have been leveled against journalists and media houses under President John Magufuli, who has been criticized for his authoritarian leadership style.

Magufuli has shut down newspapers, banned opposition rallies, switched off live broadcasts of parliamentary sessions and used the cybercrimes law to jail critics.

Azory Gwanda, a Tanzanian journalist and government critic who disappeared in 2017, has never been found.

Reporters Without Borders has labeled Magufuli a "press freedom predator" and dropped Tanzania 25 places on its annual press freedom index this year.