A CLOUD of controversy continues to surround the arrest of ten journalists working in Arusha, Tanzania in the line of duty yesterday, and their subsequent en masse release by police before the day was over.
The scribes were covering a function where the Tanzania Association of Managers and Owners of Non-Government Schools and Colleges (TAMONGSCO) was presenting a donation of 18 million/- to the Lucky Vincent nursery and primary school here as condolences to the bereaved families of victims of the recent tragic road accident involving a bus belonging to the school.
A total of 23 people were arrested when police unceremoniously gate-crashed the mid-afternoon function. Apart from the journalists, those apprehended included the Arusha City Mayor, Kalisti Lazaro; Olasiti ward counselor Alex Merti; Murieti ward counselor Credo Kifukwe; and several clerics who were also in attendance.
According to the acting Arusha regional police commander Yusuph Ilembo, the law enforcers acted out of alarm due to the large crowd that gathered at the school to witness the condolence package handover.
“My boys became suspicious of some individuals in the crowd, so they had to arrest them,” Ilembo said, asserting that the gathering was unlawful, which is why the police intervened.
While expressing regret over the arrest of the journalists, the acting regional police boss said the scribes had to be “escorted” to Arusha’s central police station in order to “protect” them.
The journalists reportedly recorded statements upon arrival at the police station, before being allowed to go.
Veteran scribe Zephania Ubwani of The Citizen newspaper in Arusha said he was positively dismayed over the entire incident. “It is rather annoying and frustrating to be arrested when you are doing your job,” he said.
A reporter with Arusha’s Triple A FM radio station, who was also among those taken into custody, said one of the policemen asked them who had invited them for the event.
Other journalists arrested in the incident were Filbert Rweyemamu (Mwananchi), Joseph Ngilisho (Sunrise FM Radio), Godfrey Thomas (Ayo TV), Janeth Mushi (Mtanzania), Geofrey Steven (freelancer), Idd Uwesu (Azam TV), Elihuruma Yohane (Tanzania Daima), and Hussen Tuta (ITV).
As we went to press, Mayor Lazaro and the counselors were still recording their statements at the central police station.A total of 32 schoolchildren, two teachers and a driver were killed in the school bus crash in Karatu District on May 6 – one of the worst road tragedies in the nation’s history.