Azory Gwanda, a freelance Tanzanian journalist, has been missing since November 21, 2017, according to a December 5 statement from Mwananchi Communications Limited, a privately owned media company. Gwanda frequently wrote for two of the company’s newspapers, Mwananchi and The Citizen.
Gwanda’s wife, Anna Pinoni, told the company that four people she did not recognize in a white Land Cruiser picked up Gwanda from a trading center in their hometown of Kibiti, which is located on Tanzania’s Coast region, on November 21 at around 8 a.m.
At 10 a.m., Pinoni said Gwanda stopped by their farm where she was working at the time to ask for keys to their home. Gwanda told her that he was taking an emergency trip and would not be back until the next day, according to her account in the Mwananchi statement.
When Pinoni later returned home, there were signs the couple’s house had been searched. Pinoni reported Gwanada as missing to Kibiti police on November 23 after he failed to return home as promised, the Mwananchi statement said.
Gwanda had last been in contact with Mwananchi Communications on November 20, according to the statement from the media group.
Mwananchi did not learn of the journalist’s disappearance until November 30, according to the statement.
Bakari Machumu, executive editor at Mwananchi Communications Limited, told CPJ that the company did not have enough information to link Gwanda’s disappearance to his work as an investigative journalist.
In a separate interview with Mwananchi newspaper, Pinoni said that although very little was clear about the case, she thought her husband’s disappearance might be linked to his work reporting a series of killings in Tanzania’s Coast region.
According to a report by Agence France-Presse and a statement from the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Gwanda had been covering the killings with particular attention to those in Kibiti district, located outside of the capital, Dar es Salaam.
A June 2017 report from The Citizen indicated that 39 people had been killed over two years. The attacks were mainly targeted at police officers and government officials, according to the newspaper’s report.
In its statement, Mwananchi Communications said that police had “promised to investigate” Gwanda’s disappearance, but had not yet provided any further information on the case. The media company urged the security officials to “speed up investigations.”
Tanzania’s information minister, Harrison Mwakyembe, told CPJ that he found out about the journalist’s disappearance from the Mwananchi statement.
Police spokesperson Barnabas Mwakaluka told CPJ to direct questions to the police inspector general, Simon Sirro, or the criminal investigations director, Robert Boaz. Neither Boaz nor Sirro responded to a phone call and text message from CPJ on December 6, 2017.
Lazaro Mambosasa, who is in charge of police in Dar es Salaam, told The Associated Press that the police were “shocked” by the news that Gwanda had disappeared. He asked the public to “share any helpful information” with investigators.