Africa

Media freedom: SA journalist and Kenyan colleague released by Tanzanian authorities

South African journalist and media advocate Angela Quintal and her Kenyan colleague Muthoki Mumo are now under the protection of the South African High Commission in Dar es Salaam after being released from five hours of detention overnight by Tanzanian immigration authorities.

This article was updated with the latest developments at 15.20pm, on 8 November 2018. The media activists' passports and all their possessions have been returned, the High Commissioner of South Africa in Tanzania, Thami Mseleku informed the Minister of International Relations, Lindiwe Sisulu on Thursday. Earlier, the two media activists were released but effectively remained detained in Tanzania as their passports were withheld. After her ordeal, Quintal was on a plane flying out of Dar es Salaam today. A statement issued by Department of International Relations and Co-operation on Thursday said that the High Commissioner has been instructed by the Minister to gather all facts around their detention and report to capital by end of the day. Following meetings this morning the High Commissioner indicates that the two are free to leave Tanzania. The Minister thank the High Commissioner, the team at the 24 call centre at DIRCO head office, diplomats from Kenya and Tanzania for resolving the matter speedily. We are happy that this matter has been resolved, the two journalists have their passports and they can travel today,” Sisulu said.

Quintal, former editor of South African newspapers, the Mail and Guardian, the Mercury and the Witness, is now Africa programme co-ordinator at the New York based Committee to Project Journalists. (CPJ)  Mumo is the sub-Saharan Africa representative.

The CPJ said in a statement on Wednesday evening.Officers who identified themselves as working with the Tanzanian immigration authority detained Quintal and Mumo in their hotel room in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, this evening, according to Quintal,” the CPJ said in a statement on Wednesday evening. “The officials searched the pair's belongings and would not return their passports when asked. Quintal and Mumo were then escorted from the hotel and have been taken to an unknown location. They were in the country on a reporting mission for CPJ. Daily Maverick has established that Quintal and Mumo were detained after they had apparently spoken to the Media Council of Tanzania, Tanzania Editors Forum and other key media stakeholders about a missing journalist Azory Gwanda.

Ndivhuwo Mabaya, spokesperson for the SA Department of International Relations and Co-operation said on Thursday morning that he had just spoken to SA’s High Commissioner to Tanzania, Thami Mseleku who had secured their release.

After his sleepless night, she has been brought back to the hotel with her Kenyan colleague,” Mabaya said. Later he added that “they are now at the High Commission. After that we will engage the Tanzanians about it. We need her passport back”.

Mahlatse Mahlase, chairperson of the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) who said she and Sanef appreciated the intervention of Mseleku and Dirco but added that South Africa should continue to use its considerable influence to insist that Tanzania return Quintal and Mumo’s passports so they could move freely or leave the country.

Gallens said that moving Quintal, who is a former senior executive member of Sanef, and Mumo to the SA High Commission meant they could not be arrested again.

But Sanef is demanding that the Tanzanian authorities return their passports so they can move freely. They are still effectively in detention in Tanzania.”We also want to know where they were for the five hours after the Tanzanian authorities took them from their hotel. What was happening to them then? Were they being interrogated? And if so, for what?”And why were they detained in the first place? They were doing CPJ work.”

She added that Sanef was also demanding an explanation from the Tanzanian authorities about why Quintal’s Twitter account was used on Wednesday evening to send a misleading message that she and Mumo had been released when they were still in detention. They were only returned to their hotel about 3am, according to sources.

This was abuse by the authorities of journalism,” Gallens said. After her release Quintal's Twitter and other social media accounts were deactivated. In a statement expressing deep concern on Thursday morning, Sanef said that after approximately five hours, Quintal and Mumo were returned to their Dar es Salaam hotel, at around 3am – but without their passports. Details and reasons for the detention are still not clear. Also, it is unclear whether Tanzanian authorities have taken Quintal’s phone. A number of her social media profiles have been deactivated.” SANEF called on Tanzanian authorities to return their passports “as a matter of urgency” and allow them to leave the country of their own free will. Sanef also welcomes the speedy probe into the matter by the Department of International Relations (DIRCO) and calls on DIRCO to exert pressure on their Tanzanian counterparts. "We also welcome the fact that the South African High Commissioner in Tanzania will be meeting with Tanzanian authorities this morning to assess the situation. "SANEF believes these are very worrying developments. We need to urgently find out the reasons behind this detention. We believe the arbitrary detention of journalists is a direct and dangerous threat to media freedom and access to information.” DM South Africans travelling abroad should take note of the 24 hour Call Centre (0123511000) of DIRCO and the address of our embassies in all 125 countries where South Africa is represented, all this information is available on www.dirco.gov.za.

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