Tanzanian Blogger Scoops an International Journalism Award in New York

Dar es Salaam — JamiiForums co-founder Mr Maxence Melo was on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, named one among the winners of this year's Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) International Press Freedom Award, thanks to the role that his whistle-blowing site does in promoting accountability and transparency in Tanzania.

The CPJ, an independent, non-profit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, also named Patrícia Campos Mello (Brazil), Neha Dixit (India), and Lucía Pineda Ubau and Miguel Mora (Nicaragua) as other recipients of the award.

The CPJ Africa described Mr Melo, who was in 2016 detained for eight days after his offices got raided by Tanzania's security forces, as "a champion of online freedom of expression and internet governance who has faced persecution from the government." According to the CPJ, Melo has appeared in court 81 times in 2017 alone for his advocacy for freedom of expression in the country.

Reacting to the news, Mr Melo said that he felt honoured to see that his work and that of his colleague's have been recognized at the international level.

The thanked the CPJ for the award, describing it (the award) as a victory for all those who cherish the tenets of freedom of expression in Tanzania.

"It is important that both journalists and activists in this country stick to their professional codes. They must remain vigilant to all pressures imposed on them as a way of weakening their cause of building a better Tanzania," Mr Melo told The Citizen on telephone.

While sticking to the country's laws, Mr Melo urged his fellow journalists and activists in the country to continue opposing any threat against the media, equating the ban on media outlets to the banning of the people's voices.

Melo is the owner and co-founder of JamiiForums, a popular East and Central African website and discussion forum that is a source of breaking news and a secure whistle-blowing platform that promotes accountability and transparency in Tanzania. The website hosts frank debates, mostly in Kiswahili, about topics that include graft in the public sector among others.

He and his fellow winners are set to receive the awards in New York, the United States on November 29, 2019.

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