from ALLOYCE KIMBUNGA in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
DAR-ES-SALAAM, (CAJ News) – THERE are mixed feelings over the release of a Tanzanian investigative journalist who has paid fines amounting to US$118 000 (R1,78 million) to secure his freedom.
Erick Kabendera, the investigative journalist, has been released after a plea bargain with the Kisutu Resident Magistrates Court in Dar-es-Salaam.
He had been held on tax evasion, money laundering and organized crime charges since July 2019.
Under the plea bargain, Kabendera was convicted on the tax evasion and money laundering charges.
The organised crime charge was dropped.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, expressed mixed feelings.
“While it is welcome news that Kabendera is out of prison close to seven months later, it is outrageous that he had to pay such a hefty fine to gain his freedom after having been unjustly jailed for exercising his right to freedom of expression,” Muchena said.
In addition to the massive fine, Kabendera’s health has deteriorated.
He has reportedly developed difficulties in breathing and suffered paralysis in his right foot.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomed the release of Kabendera but expressed concern about the fines levied against him.
“We welcome the end of Kabendera’s nearly seven-month imprisonment on charges that were transparent retaliation for his critical journalism,” Muthoki Mumo, CPJ sub-Saharan Africa representative, said.
He argued Kabandera’s woes were not over.
“These cripplingly heavy fines continue to hang over his head,” Mumo said.
President Joseph Magufuli’s government is accused of stifling press freedom.
– CAJ News