South Africa backs Tanzania in row over CPJ journalists

14Nov 2018
By Financial Times Reporter
DAR ES SALAAM
Financial Times
South Africa backs Tanzania in row over CPJ journalists

SOUTH Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, has urged journalists in that country to carry the correct documentation.

former Mail & Guardian editor Angela Quintal and her Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) colleague Muthoki Mumo.

At a press briefing on Monday, Sisulu congratulated the South African high commissioner to Tanzania, saying “he (Thami Mseleku) worked overnight” to help former Mail & Guardian editor Angela Quintal and her Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) colleague Muthoki Mumo who were detained for five hours by Tanzanian authorities.

Quintal and Mumo were involved with meeting several local journalists and asking about their views before they were detained in the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, for five hours.

According to Sisulu, Tanzanian authorities told her the journalists were detained because they had entered the country on visitors permits and not a working visa.

After their detention, Quintal and Mumo were released and later received their passports from Tanzanian authorities. They subsequently left Tanzania.

Tanzanian authorities have insisted the reason for their detention was the result of their contravention of visa regulations by working on visitors permits. There has been no mention of the work the authorities believe the pair undertook while in the country.

In a statement following Quintal and Mumo’s release last week, CPJ confirmed Quintal and Mumo had been meeting with journalist in Tanzania to understand the challenges journalists there face.

“Angela Quintal and Muthoki Mumo travelled to Tanzania to understand the challenges facing the Tanzanian press and to inform the global public,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon wrote.

“It is deeply ironic that through their unjustified and abusive detention of our colleagues, Tanzanian authorities have made their work that much easier. It is now abundantly clear to anyone who followed the latest developments that Tanzanian journalists work in a climate of fear and intimidation.

We call on the government of Tanzania to allow journalists to work freely and to allow those who defend their rights to access the country without interference.”

Days before the journalist’s detention, Quintal had shared a story pertaining to the disappearance of Tanzanian journalist, Azory Gwanda on Twitter.

In the same article shared by Quintal, it was reported that 27 journalists had been mistreated by Tanzanian police since the start of the year.

“We will always be there for you when you are in trouble, but we would like it if you stuck to the rules and regulations of any country that you visit,” Sisulu explained.

The South African department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) stipulates that if South Africans travelling abroad do not comply with visa or permit requirements, they can be subjected to criminal prosecution, imprisonment, deportation, or be blacklisted. Sisulu told journalists that Dirco is available to help stranded journalists and travellers at anytime.

CPJ outraged

The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed indignation at statements from Tanzanian authorities and South Africa's foreign minister justifying the detention of CPJ's Africa team in Dar es Salaam on November 7.

“Officials from both countries falsely claimed CPJ's Africa programme coordinator Angela Quintal and sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumo were in Tanzania without proper visas when they were detained and interrogated. In fact, both were traveling on valid visas, as part of a fact-finding and networking trip to better understand local press freedom conditions,” CPJ said in a statement on Monday.

"Having debriefed with our Africa programme coordinator Angela Quintal and sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumo about their detention, we are outraged by their treatment at the hands of Tanzanian authorities," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

"Both had valid visas, so we have concluded that the intention of Tanzanian authorities was to harass and intimidate our team. CPJ is also disappointed that, after all South Africa did to assist the team on the ground, its foreign minister would now repeat falsehoods about their detention."