A prominent investigative journalist has been arrested in Tanzania, prompting an outcry of concerns about press freedom in the country.
Erick Kabendera was arrested by six plainclothes police officers on Monday night at his home in the east African nation’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
Authorities are investigating the reporter’s citizenship and he was arrested after refusing to heed a summons, according to Lazaro Mambosasa, the city’s regional police commissioner.
“Kabendera has not been abducted … he has been arrested by the Tanzania Police Force as part of an investigation into his citizenship,” he told reporters. “He is in safe hands.”
Mr Kabendera, who writes for a number of local and international publications, was arrested despite a government probe concluding his citizenship was not an issue in 2013.
Police were working with the Immigration Department and would likely file criminal charges after the investigation, Mr Mombosasa said, without giving further details.
One of Mr Kabendera’s most recent articles, published by the East African newspaper on 27 July, reported a rift in Mr Magufuli’s government with the headline: “No end in sight as Tanzania’s ruling party CCM goes for ‘dissenters’”.
Some Tanzanians took to social media to demand his release and question the real motive behind his arrest.
“I went to school with Kabendera … he is as Tanzanian as one can and should be. Really guys … really?” Carol Ndosi, a Dar es Salaam-based entrepreneur, wrote on Twitter.
Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s director for east Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said: “It is outrageous for the police to arrest the journalist and hold him incommunicado for more than 24 hours, then claim they are querying his citizenship.
“Erick Kabendera must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
She added: “The arrest of Erick Kabendera is an assault on press freedom and further underlines the rising repression of journalists and perceived government critics in Tanzania, where people have been killed, physically assaulted, threatened, harassed or abducted for expressing their views.”
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was concerned about Mr Kabendera’s safety.
“The manner in which this journalist was taken, by men claiming to be police, is very ominous and further evidence that the press is not safe in president John Magufuli’s Tanzania,” said Muthoki Mumo, the CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative.