Today, November 21, 2020, marks three years since a freelance journalist with Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL) Azory Gwanda mysteriously disappeared while covering a spate of violence in the southern part of Tanzania and the government’s efforts to put it down and restore normalcy in the region.
Although authorities in Tanzania have always pointed out that they were investigating the mysterious disappearance of Mr Azory Gwanda, to-date there have been no findings whatsoever into the whereabouts of the investigative reporter and whether he was alive or dead.
In his lifetime as a journalist, Mr Azory Gwanda was one of the few reporters who reported from the ground the situation in the towns of Mkuranga, Kibiti and Rufiji, in Coast Region, where Tanzania’s security forces were struggling to put to an end a protracted battle with alleged insurgents that were blamed for killing several local government and the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) leaders in the areas.
Mr Azory Gwanda’s reports appeared both on Mwananchi and The Citizen newspapers, both produced by MCL, a subsidiary of the Kenyan-based Nation Media Group (NMG). According to reports filed to the police then by Azory Gwanda’s wife, Ms Anna Pinoni, the journalist was bundled into a car by four men and driven away from their home. It was the last time that she would see him.
Ms Penoni gave birth to a baby girl three months since Azory Gwanda went missing.
On July 10, 2019, Foreign Affairs Minister Palamagamba Kabudi reportedly said during an interview with the BBC that Mr Azory Gwanda had “disappeared and dead,” something that led both the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Amnesty International to demand the Tanzanian government to provide a detailed account on the fate of the journalist. But minister Kabudi later clarified that his statement on the Azory Gwanda issue was misinterpreted, saying that the government does not know whether the journalist was alive or dead.
Since his disappearance, Azory Gwanda has earned several recognitions for his works both within Tanzania and beyond. In June 2019, for example, Gwanda’s case featured in the “10 Most Urgent” list of journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases are seeking justice released every month by One Free Press Coalition, a united group of pre-eminent editors and publishers using their global reach and social platforms to spotlight journalists under attack worldwide.
In September 2018 Gwanda received the Daudi Mwangosi Award for Courage in Journalism from the Union of Tanzania Press Club and in 2019 in the commemoration of two years since Gwanda went missing MCL planted a tree and unveiled a plaque in his tribute.
Ever since reports on the mysterious disappearance of Mr Azory Gwanda went public, an online campaign #WhereIsAzory has been ongoing as part of the efforts by journalists, rights activists and concerned citizens to put pressure on authorities to investigate the whereabouts of Mr Azory Gwanda and inform the public whether he was still alive or already dead.