A leading Tanzanian editor accused police of beating up and killing television journalist Daudi Mwangosi, who died on Sunday during clashes between anti-riot police and supporters of the opposition CHADEMA party.
A police commissioner denied police responsibility but said he had ordered a joint military-police inquiry into the killing. Photos of the victim were uploaded onto the Internet and published by local newspapers.
Opposition leaders and activists linked the incident to a wider trend of rapidly growing violence against dissent in Tanzania and called for an independent inquiry.
Mwangosi was killed in a village in the Iringa region, about 500 km (315 miles) west of the capital Dar es Salaam, while reporting the clashes between police and CHADEMA supporters.
It was the first time in modern Tanzanian history that a journalist had been killed while doing his job, the Tanzania Editors’ Forum (TEF) said.
“It was a deliberate move by the police, who clearly targeted this journalist. Eyewitnesses said the journalist was surrounded by police, beaten up and brutally killed,” TEF secretary-general Neville Meena told Reuters.
Police fired a tear gas shell into Daudi’s stomach at close range, Meena said. “Photos of fragments of Daudi’s blown-up body hit the Internet less than one hour after the incident. We believe that the police are deliberately targeting journalists in a violent crackdown.”
The police denied responsibility and said they had moved in to disperse an illegal gathering of opposition supporters.
“Police deny any deliberate involvement in the death of the journalist,” police commissioner of operations Paul Chagonja said in a statement. “A commission of inquiry comprising officials from the police and military has been formed to investigate the death of the journalist.”
Journalists at the scene uploaded images onto the Internet that they said showed Mwangosi’s mutilated body lying on the ground, his abdomen ripped open and intestines spilling out.
Local newspapers published photos that showed a man lying on the ground, surrounded by anti-riot police officers who were beating him. The newspapers identified the man as Mwangosi, though the face was not recognisable.
“We condemn the killing …” the Guardian newspaper of Tanzania said in an editorial. “It is unacceptable for the government and the public to rely on police investigations, knowing only too well that they are in this case one of the parties being blamed for the death of our colleague,” it added.
Mwangosi’s death came a week after one person was killed and several were wounded when police fired tear gas to break up an opposition protest in Morogoro town, a stronghold of the ruling CCM party.