Tanzanian reporter Jesse Mikofu was recently beaten and harassed by officers of the KVZ force in Zanzibar. (Photo: YouTube/Screenshot)

Tanzanian reporter Jesse Mikofu beaten, harassed in Zanzibar

On April 21, 2021, security officers in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago in Tanzania, beat and harassed Jesse Mikofu, a reporter with the privately owned Mwananchi newspaper, according to news reports, a statement by the Media Council of Tanzania, an independent self-regulatory body, and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

Three officers from the KVZ force, a security unit controlled by the Zanzibari government, confronted Mikofu while he was photographing officers forcibly evicting market traders from the Darajani area of Stone Town, on the west coast of Unguja Island, according to those sources.

Mikofu told CPJ that he showed the three officers his government-issued press card and a company ID, and they then took him to a commanding officer at the scene for questioning. That commanding officer forced Mikofu to sit on the ground, questioned him about his identity and his work, and told him that he should not have photographed the KVZ operation, the journalist told CPJ, adding that he was questioned in the presence of about 20 KVZ officers.

Several KVZ officers then placed a large stone across Mikofu’s knees and mockingly told him to write his articles there; when he said that was impossible, they hit him with sticks across his back and on the soles of his feet, and kicked him all over his body, he said.

The officers also ordered Mikofu to log into his email account on his phone, then one of them changed the password, he told CPJ, saying the officers then forced him to hit his smartphone with a rock until it was broken beyond repair.

The commanding KVZ officer then forced Mikofu to do several push-ups, and officers pushed the journalist into a muddy pool by the roadside and forced him to roll around in it; Mikofu told CPJ that the officers allowed him to walk away once he was entirely soaked with mud.

Mikofu said that not all the officers who surrounded him participated in the attack, but he could not be sure how many took turns in beating and harassing him. He said that he suffered pains on his back and his left hand, and received outpatient treatment at a local hospital.

In an April 22 press conference, the Zanzibar minister of regional administration and local government, Massoud Ali Mohammed, and the information and youth minister, Tabia Maulid Mwita, condemned the attack and harassment of Mikofu, and said the government had not ordered such treatment. They promised to take action against the officers responsible, and said that journalists should not be afraid to do their jobs.

On April 23, both ministers visited the Mwananchi offices in Zanzibar to check on Mikofu’s health, and brought a new phone, an Itel device that cost 140,000 shillings ($60), to replace his destroyed phone, according to the journalist. Mikofu told CPJ that his original phone was an Infinix device which cost about 380,000 shillings ($160). He added that he later regained control of his email account.

Mohammed, the regional minister who oversees Zanzibar’s security forces including the KVZ, told CPJ in a May 6 phone interview that investigations into the incident were still ongoing. He said that the officers responsible would be taken through a disciplinary process, and the outcome of these proceedings would be made public once completed.