Tanzania does not know if a journalist who disappeared two years ago while investigating murders of police and ruling party officials is dead or alive the country’s foreign minister was quoted as saying.
Activists cite Azory Gwanda’s disappearance as a sign of worsening conditions for journalists under President John Magufuli. They accuse government of cracking down on press freedom by suspending newspapers. Government denies the allegations.
In an interview with the BBC, Foreign Minister Palamagamba Kabudi appeared to confirm Gwanda’s death and said a series of deadly attacks in the Rufiji area where he had was were linked to armed “extremism”, which has now spread to Mozambique.
In a clarification issued through Tanzania government spokesman Hassan Abbasi, Kabudi denied the journalist was dead.
“The reference I made to Azory Gwanda contextually did not mean Azory Gwanda is confirmed dead. To date, the government of Tanzania has no confirmation on whether Azory is dead or alive,” the spokesman quoted Kabudi as saying.
Kabudi told the BBC Focus on Africa programme earlier this week the journalist was among several people who disappeared and were killed in the area.
The state is not only dealing with Azory Gwanda, the state is dealing with all those who unfortunately died and disappeared in Rufiji,” he said.
Last week an Islamist militant group killed 11 people, including nine Tanzanians, in an ambush in northern Mozambique, the latest execution-style attack in the area since 2017 that have so far killed more than 100 people.
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists accuses the Tanzanian government of failing to launch a credible investigation into Gwanda’s fate after he disappeared on November 21, 2017.
“Suddenly the foreign minister mentions, almost in passing, the journalist is apparently dead. This is wholly inadequate and distressing,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney from New York.
Gwanda wrote several articles about mysterious deaths and disappearances in Rufiji for local newspapers. His wife is unsure whether his disappearance was linked to his articles.