Tanzania: Rights groups seek justice for freelance journalist Kabendera

Journalist Erick Kebendera.

Dar es Salaam. Rights groups said on Sunday, August 11, 2019, that they would not relent in their quest for justice on the arrest of freelance journalist Erick Kebendera.

The Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF), Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) and Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) said the arrest of the journalist – who was last week charged with abetting organised crime, tax evasion and money laundering – violated his rights.

Mr Kabendera was arrested on July 29, 2019 at his home in Mbweni in the city by people in plain clothes, who said they were police officers.

TEF acting chairman Deodatus Balile said unidentified people have prepared flyers which they circulate on social media, preventing citizens from talking about the way Mr Kabendera was arrested.

He said as far as the law was concerned, people must only refrain from going into details of charges facing the suspect.

“That is a responsibility of lawyers who will do so in court. We are doing nothing wrong by discussing the arrest conducted by police officers who were dressed like civilians and who were in a private car,” he said.

THRDC national coordinator Onesmo Olengurumwa urged the authorities to take Mr Kabandera to the court in line with the case schedules.

That way, the journalist will be subjected to a fair trial for justice to prevail.

He said experience shows that charges similar to those facing Mr Kabendera have seen people spending up to ten years in remand prisons.

"We have evidence of people who have passed through such troubles. Mr Kabendera should be taken to court whenever required for his lawyers to help him,” he said.

Mr Olengurumwa said human rights groups were in support of a recent call by Chief Justice, Prof Ibrahim Juma, calling upon law enforcers to desist from a tendency of arresting people and arraigning them without completing investigations into charges facing them.

MCT executive secretary Kajubi Mukajanga said journalists cannot use guns or machetes to demand for their rights, but rather they use their pens and microphones to raise their concerns.