Two staff members of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists were freed Thursday, a day after Tanzanian immigration authorities took the women from their Dar es Salaam hotel and held them at an unknown location.
CPJ, in a statement on its website, welcomed the release of colleagues Angela Quintal and Muthoki Mumo, Africa program coordinator and representative, respectively. The organization said the women had safely left the country, and it urged Tanzanian authorities “to halt their ongoing crackdown against a free press.”
On Twitter, CPJ had expressed fears for the safety of the two, who were on a reporting mission.
Ali Mtanda, spokesman for Tanzania's immigration department, told VOA that "CPJ officials admitted that they were in the country to meet journalists, which violates their visa requirements."
Quintal is a South African citizen and Mumo is a Kenyan, Reuters news service reported.
Mtanda said their visa applications "simply said they are in the country as visitors." He also said the two were told to "obtain accreditation from the Ministry of Information" if they wanted to interview journalists.
CPJ’s statement said immigration and security officials took the women to an undisclosed location, allowing them to return to their hotel after several hours of questioning. “During their detention, Quintal and Mumo’s phones and computers were also seized,” and “a false tweet saying they had been released was sent from Quintal’s personal Twitter account. …”
Press freedom in Tanzanian has come under attack in the last few years by President John Magufuli's administration, which has implemented harsh legislation and harassed journalists and bloggers, CPJ has said.
Another watchdog group, Freedom House, describes Tanzania as "partly free," with "mounting repression of the opposition, media outlets and social media users who are critical of the increasingly authoritarian president. …"
The administration denies that criticism.
VOA Swahili Service stringer Idd Uwesu contributed an interview to this report.