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Leading journalist denied bail

Publish date: 12 August 2019
Issue Number: 836
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Tanzania

Top investigative Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera has been charged with money laundering, tax evasion and assisting a criminal racket. The reporter, who was arrested last Monday, was not asked to enter a plea and as the charges are considered too serious for him to be granted bail, he will be remain in custody until his case is heard. Business Day reports that the prosecution alleged that between January 2015 and July 2019 Kabendera 'knowingly furnished assistance in the conduct of affairs of a criminal racket, with intent either to reap profit or other benefit'. He is also accused of failing to pay taxes on an income of $75 000. 'Based on the nature of questions he has been asked since being put under police custody, we believe that his arrest and subsequent prosecution are linked to his work as a journalist,' Kabendera’s lawyer, Jebra Kambole, said. Government spokesman Hassan Abbasi declined to respond directly to the lawyer’s accusations, saying 'if he is charged in court then let’s leave the matter before the court'. Voice of America reports that his trial could take up to three years. His next court date will be on 19 August. The freelance journalist has been critical of President John Magufuli's administration and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party in reports carried by The Guardian, The East African, and The Times of London.

Full Business Day report

Full Voice of America report

Tanzanian MP Tundu Lissu said Kabendera was not the only victim of Magufuli's ‘reign of terror’. Writing in Vanguard Africa, Lissu notes that he is one of many in an increasingly long list of opposition leaders and activists, journalists, bloggers, businessmen and civic and religious leaders who have been targeted because of their political opinions. ‘These abuses committed by the Magufuli regime will only worsen if left unchecked. The crimes of this regime must not only be exposed and denounced – they must also be deterred and punished. It is therefore high time for drastic actions to be taken. Financial sanctions, travel bans and visa restrictions should be imposed against all senior officials in the intelligence and security apparatus, as well as the ruling party political establishment and their families. Ideally, these individuals would be prevented or restricted from travelling or moving money and other assets abroad. These brazen human rights abusers would be made to understand that their state-orchestrated violence and terror against innocent civilians and the political opposition will not go unnoticed nor go unpunished by the international community.’

Full Vanguard Africa analysis