28 Feb 2013

Tanzanian journalist harassed, suspected of 'selling state secrets'

 (RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders wrote to Tanzanian minister of home affairs Emmanuel Nchimbi last week to call for an end to the harassment of the journalist Erick Kabendera and his family by representatives of the state.
“Tanzania's ranking in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index is 36 places lower than last year,” the 18 February letter said. “No journalists had been killed until September 2012, but thereafter two were killed in the space of four months and this has had a big impact on the Tanzanian news environment.
“Harassment by officials of such a respected journalist as Mr. Kabendera can only exacerbate the current sense of helplessness among Tanzanian journalists, especially when everything indicates that it is not random. These intimidation attempts are targeting a talented journalist and seem designed to protect a senior official who was affected by his testimony.”
Signed by secretary-general Christophe Deloire, the letter added: “Reporters Without Borders urges you to call the Immigration Department to order so that this disgraceful harassment stops. We also urge you to tell the police that they must do whatever is necessary to guarantee the safety of Mr. Kabendera and his family.”
A former employee of the Dar es Salaam-based Guardian newspaper, Kabendera was a 2009 winner of the David Astor Journalism Award for journalists who are “exceptionally promising and with a great potential for excellence in the future.”
In December 2012 in London, he testified for the defence in a libel suit that Tanzanian businessman and Guardian owner Reginald Mengi brought against British blogger Sarah Hermitage.
Ever since his return to Tanzania, he has been the target of intimidation attempts. His home has been ransacked three times and Immigration officials have been casting doubt on his nationality without any legal grounds.
His elderly and ailing parents were escorted in an appalling manner to a regional immigration office where they were subjected to an eight-hour interrogation and were asked to sign documents without being allowed to read them.
Although life-long employees of the Tanzanian state, Kabendera's parents obtained limited and unsatisfactory explanations from the officials who interrogated them. The officials said that the investigation was ordered by Immigration Department Commissioner Magnus Paul Ulungi, and that it was a “sensitive” matter that had to be followed “closely.” One official added that Kabendera was suspected of selling state secrets to “European powers” but “everything will be all right” if he remains “humble.”
After falling 36 places, Tanzania is now ranked 70th out of 179 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

19 Feb 2013

This week on Daraja’s newspaper…

                                       (who will replace Makinda in Njombe constituency ?)

The following is a round-up of some of the stories that have appeared on this week’s Daraja publication, Daraja Letu (Njombe edition)

A primary teacher doing wonders
Beda Mtitu, headmaster of Kibeto Primary School, is also the only teacher there. He has been teaching at the school on his own for seven years now since 2006. Currently the school has 77 pupils and three classrooms. Mtitu is not happy with the situation. He has asked the district to send in more teachers but was told that people must first build more classrooms and houses for teachers which the village has not yet done. The district education officer has also said that school inspectors will be dispatched before they consider sending more teachers there. So, he is the only teacher. But last year eight out of the 11 pupils who sat for the national standard seven exam passed.

 No electricity for fear of witchcraft
People in Ludewa village in Ludewa district have refused to have their homes connected to electricity for fear of repercussions from the local witches (wachawi). Everyone is waiting for someone else to take the first step to see what happens. Witchcraft has the village in a grip of fear with people claiming to see the dead walking during the night. Ludewa District Commissioner, Juma Madaha, along with several other officials has been to the village to try and talk some ‘sense’ into the scared community.  However, say the villagers, unless the district commissioner can get rid of the walking dead no one will get electricity into their house. It is believed that witches,  in that village usually target the most successful people in the community because of jealous.

 Who will step into Makinda’s shoes?
The lead story asks who will stand for a seat in parliament through ruling party CCM’s ticket in the 2015 general elections following the Speaker of the House and Njombe Kusini’s MP Anne Makinda’s statement that she will not contest after her current term is over. Makinda who was quoted as said that contrary to popular opinion, MPs do not have any money at all and have to struggle to make ends meet. One, Deo Mwanyika- who hails from Njombe and employed by Africa Barrick Gold, as a Deputy President (Africa), is said to be among those who will stand, if he is nominated by his party CCM, anyway.

 To the hospital in a tractor
The health centre in Luana ward is, according to people in Luana, too expensive. It is so expensive that they would rather hire the village tractor to go to the district hospital in Ludewa. People only go to the centre as a last resort because apart from being too expensive, the drugs are also frequently missing and getting a health staff to attend takes hours. Alphonce Haule, the tractor driver says it takes up to two hours to get to Ludewa. Recently, a  child has died because his parents did not have enough money to go to the centre or hire the tractor to town. The health centre belongs to a Catholic Church priest in the area. A nurse at the centre says that is the problem because the church just sets its own prices for the drugs. “If we open a government centre then things will be different,” she is quoted as saying.

Nineteen kilometres walk to test for malaria
 People in Ludende village have to walk up to 19kms just to get a malaria test as their clinic doesn’t have the testing kits. Zakaria Mhagama says the health staff diagnose them by asking questions about how they feel. Zakaria and others are scared that they might be treated for the wrong disease and lose their lives. It costs about Tsh 25,000 (USD  16) on a motorcycle to go to one of the nearby health centres in Lugarawa and Milo villages.

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