7 January 2008

Tanzania: Machete And Acid Attack On Two Journalists Inside Their Newspaper

press release

Reporters Without Borders condemns an attack with machetes and acid on Saeed Kubenea, the publisher of the weekly Mwanahalisi, and Ndimara Tegambwage, its editor, by thugs who forced their way into the newspaper's office in the Dar es Salaam suburb of Kinondoni on the evening of 5 January.

"This barbaric attack is especially disturbing in a country where it is not customary to use physical violence to try to silence journalists," the press freedom organisation said. "We note that an investigation is under way and we urge the authorities to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible are identified and receive an appropriate punishment."

Armed with machetes and acid, the assailants stormed into Mwanahalisi's offices at around 9 p.m., ordered Kubenea and Tegambwage to lie down, gave them a severe beating, threw acid on them and dealt Tegambwage several machete blows to the head.

"They fell on us with iron bars," Kubenea later said from a hospital bed. "They hit me about the head and threw a burning liquid in my face. My colleague, who tried to resist, was also beaten and sprayed before the assailants stole his mobile phone." The two journalists were taken to Muhimbili National Hospital the next day.

It seems the attack was prepared with care as witness say they saw suspicious individuals hanging around outside the newspaper's premises earlier in the evening. Kubenea said the attack was the culmination of a series of threats against him that began in mid-2007.

He said that his car was recently the target of an arson attack and that he often received telephone threats as a result of articles published in the newspaper. "I was warned that I would be killed if I did not stop meddling in people's business," he said.

Confirming that an investigation was under way, regional police chief Jamal Rwambow said he thought the attack was an attempt to silence journalists who had helped to uncover scandals.

Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has more than 120 correspondents worldwide.

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