TWO KENYAN JOURNALISTS CONVICTED AND FINED IN TANZANIA, REPATRIATED BACK TO KENYA

TWO KENYAN JOURNALISTS CONVICTED AND FINED IN TANZANIA, REPATRIATED BACK TO KENYA

Arusha, Tanzania

On 19th May 2020, two Kenyan journalists; Mr. Muthathia Shadrack Kareria and Mr. Clifton Isindu were convicted and sentenced by the Magistrates’ Court in Arusha to either pay fine amounting to Two Million Tanzanian Shillings or three years of imprisonment. They subsequently paid the fine and were repatriated back to Kenya, through the Namanga border.

The two journalists work with Elimu TV, an educational digital television station in Kenya, which has a sub-office at the Namanga border of Kenya and Tanzania. They had been arrested in “no-man’s land” at Namanga, and subsequently detained at Longido Police Station in Arusha Region, Tanzania since Saturday 16th May 2020, allegedly for interviewing people about the status of COVID-19 in Tanzania. 

THRDC instructed its Advocate, Mr. Ally Mhyellah in Arusha to investigate the matter and provide legal representation and other necessary support. Advocate Ally diligently worked on the matter by making necessary follow up and legally representing the journalists both at the Arusha Police Station, Immigration Office and Magistrate’s Court.

On 19th May 2020, the two journalists were arraigned at the Arusha Magistrate’s Court, in Criminal Case No 116 of 2020, and charged with two counts each of: –

a) Being unlawfully present in the United Republic of Tanzania without being in possession of a valid residence permit, pass or visa contrary to section 45(1)(i) and (2) of the Immigration Act, [Cap 54 R:E 2016]

b) Engaging in an occupation (journalism activities) without being in possession of a valid residence permit or pass issued to them for such purpose contrary to Section 45(1)(m) and (2) of the Immigration Act, [Cap 54 R:E 2016]

According to the information that THRDC received from the accused persons, they decided to plead guilty to save themselves from the hassle of applying for bail, and thereby risking being sent to Remand Prison while bail and sureties were being processed, in the midst of COVID-19. They therefore feared the risk of contracting diseases or other complications in the region’s crowded prisons and places of detention, especially in during this COVID-19 pandemic.

After pleading guilty and mitigation thereafter, both were convicted and sentenced to either pay fine totalling Two Million Tanzanian Shillings or three years of imprisonment. They opted to pay fine and were both set free by the Court on the same day, 19th May 2020.

Afterwards, THRDC’s Advocate Ally Mhyellah and Advocate Donald Deya from the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) tirelessly supervised the legal process of the journalists’ travel back to Kenya on the same day. We are informed that the journalists arrived safely in Kenya, and are currently in a 14-day mandatory quarantine.

The case of these two Kenyan journalists drew a lot of attention from the public and other nationals of Kenya and Tanzania, and was closely being followed up by THRDC, Elimu TV, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Article 19 – Eastern Africa, PALU, Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and Human Rights Defenders in general.

Issued by:
Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)
On 21st May 2020