South African journalist and editor Angela Quintal – now Africa Programme Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) – and her colleague Muthoki Mumo, the sub-Saharan Africa representative for CPJ Africa, have been released in Tanzania following a “high-level intervention” by the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco).
Dirco spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said the two were in high spirits but it was a a serious issue and they were still without their passports.
This was confirmed by a family spokesperson.
“Officers who identified themselves as working with the Tanzanian immigration authority detained Quintal and Mumo in their hotel room in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, this evening, according to Quintal,” said CPJ executive director Joel Simon in a statement.
“The officials searched the pair’s belongings and would not return their passports when asked. Quintal and Mumo were then escorted from the hotel and have been taken to an unknown location. They were in the country on a reporting mission for CPJ.”
It was a fraught few hours for family and colleagues.
The first indication there was a problem was a Facebook SOS at about 10pm by Quintal saying they were being taken away for interrogation and they didn’t know why.
At about 3am it was discovered that both their Facebook accounts had been deleted, and both their Twitter accounts were suspended.
The Financial Mail recently reported that during President John Magufuli’s tenure, “four newspapers and two private radio stations have been banned on the flimsiest of pretexts”.
“Last June, Mawio newspaper was shuttered for two years for linking two former presidents to the government’s mining sector investigations,” said the paper.
At the time Quintal argued that a ban that long was “tantamount to closing the publication”, and accused Tanzania of “using public order as an excuse to frustrate the flow of information and public debate”.
Mabaya said both she and her colleague were at the high commission in Dar es Salaam.
“High Commissioner Thami Mseleku is meeting with them this morning; we will need to understand why she was detained for a number of hours and then we must engage with the Tanzanian authorities to understand what her detention meant,” said Mabaya.