Immigration clears air over two CPJ journalists saga

IMMIGRATION Services Department yesterday cleared the air over misguided reports awash on social platforms and some international media that two journalists of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) were being detained in Tanzania, saying the latter were just questioned and released. 

The reason behind the interrogation of the Kenyan and South African journalists, Ms Muthoki Mumo and Angela Quintal respectively, on Wednesday evening, was that they were conducting activities against entry permits granted to them, according to the department’s spokesperson Ally Mtanda. 

On their release, the journalists spent the night at Dar es Salaam’s Southern Sun Hotel, contrary to reports that the two were detained until yesterday.

Yesterday, the authority gave back travel documents to the duo in the presence of their countries’ ambassadors to Tanzania.

“They were given their travel documents, including passports, and were also educated on particular law that they had violated,” Mr Mtanda told the ‘Daily News’ in a telephone interview. 

Director of Tanzania Information Services, which accredits people to work as journalists in the country, Dr Hassan Abbas, said normally foreign journalists who come to Tanzania for journalistic activities are given temporary press cards which last for 90 days.

For foreign journalists who want to work permanently in the country, they are required to acquire a renewable one-year press card like the local journalists. 

“These embattled CPJ journalists have never applied for the press card. Therefore, apart from violating immigration laws, they have also infringed the Media Services Act, 2016,” said Dr Abbas who doubles as government’s chief spokesperson. 

He presumed that the two could have come for some other ‘hidden’ agenda, the reason they did not seek press cards from authorities.

The Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) yesterday posted on social media, independently confirming that the two were not given any condition for the release of their travel documents.

“They were assured security and told to continue with their work. No charges are currently pending in any authority in Tanzania against the two,” the THRDC states.

Detailing on what had led to holding the two for interrogation, he said, the officers were on normal patrol and went to the hotel to make follow up on whether Ms Mumo and Quintal adhered to the conditions of their permits.

“When they requested for visa the two said the purpose of their entry was just a visit…but the Immigration officers established that they were conducting meetings with journalists without following proper procedures,” he said.

He added: “If they wanted to do activities other than what is spelt in their visas, they had to come to the Immigration Department and change their permits as the law requires.”

Social media was yesterday awash with the reports that the two staffers were detained in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday evening.

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