Editors have strongly condemned attempts to suppress freedom of press and speech in the country as police prepare to take Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) Chairperson Absalom Kibanda to court for disseminating alleged seditious information.
In an official statement issued by TEF secretary general Neville Meena, on behalf of the Board of Directors, the forum described the driving force behind the Kibanda case last Friday as part of attempts to suppress the freedoms provided for in the Constitution.
“There is unusual pressure behind Police Force’s decision to interrogate the TEF Chairman Absalom Kibanda. This is part of attempts to suppress media freedom and freedom of expression provided for in country’s Constitution,” said Meena in the statement.
“There is an emerging trend of security organs spending much of their time in filing criminal cases against innocent people accusing them of disseminating seditious information,” said Meena.
Kibanda, who is also Chief Editor of Tanzania Daima, published by Free Media Ltd, was interrogated in connection with the publication of what is allegedly a seditious article by Samson Mwigamba, a writer in the same newspaper.
The forum described the interrogation of the journalists as part of the plot, by police, to silence editors and journalists who have been in the forefront in openly criticising misbehaving leaders.
He added that the habit of frightening editors through tactics like those against Kibanda and Mwigamba, was dangerous for national freedom and demonstrates the government attempts to use security organs to suppress media freedoms.
According to Meena TEF condemned the moves as attempting to reverse the democratic gains of the last 50 years, adding: “The government wants to take us back to where people were not free to get and give information.”
“As TEF, we are calling upon our leaders to think afresh about the matter and its implications, and abandon their approach in dealing with those who in good faith criticise government implementation. Proceeding to institute charges against the two will not only affect the whole meaning of good governance but also bring the nation to disrepute, casting our leaders as rulers who cannot stand criticism by the media,” noted Meena.
Kibanda was interrogated at Dar es Salaam’s Central Police Station for hours last Friday, following the publication of a feature article in Tanzania Daima newspaper last month, titled “Special Document for all police officers”.