Voices of concern intensify over whereabouts of missing journalist

08Dec 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Voices of concern intensify over whereabouts of missing journalist

MWANANCHI Communications Limited (MCL) has appealed to the government and security organs to intensify the search for Azory Gwanda, a freelance journalist reporting for the media outlet from Rufiji and Kibiti districts in Coast Region.

Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) chairman Theophil Makunga addresses a press conference at Mwananchi Communications Ltd offices in Dar es Salaam yesterday on the disappearance of MCL correspondent Azory Gwanda from his work station in Kibiti District, Coast Region, about three weeks ago. Left is MCL managing director Francis Nanai. Photo: Halima Kambi

Gwanda has been missing since November 21 this year, when he was taken away by unidentified people in a white Toyota Land Cruiser.

Addressing a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday, MCL managing director Francis Nanai called for collective efforts from media stakeholders, the police and the government as a whole to make sure the journalist is returned to his home safely.

According to Nanai, Gwanda’s disappearance came to light early this week after constant attempts to contact him on his registered mobile phone numbers failed.

Gwanda’s wife, Anna Pinoni, notified the MCL management about her husband’s no-show on November 30, and it was then that the company started trying to trace his whereabouts and informing security agencies.

Pinoni herself said four men driving a white Toyota Land Cruiser arrived at Gwanda’s work station in Kibiti at about 8 am on November 21 and told him to get in the car.

The four men told people who were in the vicinity that they wanted to talk to him for a while.

About two hours later, the occupants of the vehicle together with Gwanda arrived at the couple’s farm where Pinoni was working. She said Gwanda asked her for their house key and told her he wanted to pick up some stuff as he was leaving on an emergency trip and would be back shortly.

Later, when Pinoni arrived home, she found books and documents scattered all over the floor, indicating that some sort of ransacking search had been carried out in the house.

Gwanda’s wife reported the matter at the Kibiti police station and was given RB form number Kibiti/1496/2017, with the police promising to investigate his disappearance. But so far there has been no feedback on the investigation.

“The MCL management is working closely with Gwanda’s family on this matter and would like to call upon security organs to speed up their investigation into the whereabouts of this journalist,” Nanai said.

He said the company has already written to the Minister for Information, Culture and Sports, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe; Inspector General of Police (IGP) Simon Sirro; the Speaker of the National Assembly; the Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF); the Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT); the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT); the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC); Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC); and several other stakeholders informing them on the issue.

Meanwhile, TEF chairman Theophil Makunga said it is such shocking incidents as this that strike fear in the media industry.

He also called on responsible security organs to speed up the investigation and determine Gwanda’s whereabouts. “I also call on the people who took Gwanda to book him through legal channels if he has committed any crime, instead of detaining him in secrecy,” Makunga added.