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Bariadi DC Simon Simalenga Criticised After Kicking Journalists Out of Key Meeting

The official reportedly told the journalists to get out of the meeting to discuss the possibility of dividing the Bariadi constituency, citing guidelines that prohibit uninvited members from participating. But journalists say they were invited.

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Mwanza. Press freedom advocates in Tanzania have criticised Bariadi district commissioner Simon Simalenga for his decision to reportedly kick journalists out of a key meeting to discuss the possibility of authorities dividing the Bariadi constituency into two, which Mr Simalenga has been championing.

Monday’s meeting involved key attendants with stakes in Bariadi’s development, including councillors and other participants. Journalists were at the meeting as part of their duty to cover its proceedings and inform the public about what participants discussed.

But to their surprise, immediately after Mr Simalenga arrived at the meeting, he ordered journalists out of the room, claiming that the meeting guidelines do not allow the participation of uninvited guests. Simalenga also reportedly ordered the meeting venue’s doors shut, to prevent anyone from entering.

Journalists who were present at the scene told The Chanzo that the DC’s decision shocked and surprised them, noting that not only were they invited to the meeting by district officials but also this was not the first time that they attended such meetings.

Sitta Tuma, a reporter with the Zanzibar Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and STV online media, and was among the journalists who were removed from the meeting, described what happened as “unprecedented” and “baseless.”

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“We have always attended such meetings, so why did this happen today? We have never encountered anything like this before,” Tuma wondered. “The decision interfered with our work as journalists and prevented us from carrying out our duties of informing the public about issues of concern to them.”

Other journalists removed from the meeting came from ITV, EATV, Uhuru Media, RFA, Mwananchi, TBC, and Nyanza FM. Independent journalist Samirah Yusuph, present at the event, expressed concerns about press freedom after being ejected. “We were invited by the [district executive] director,” she stated. “So, why the abrupt dismissal? Polite communication would have been appropriate.”

Mr Simalenga did not respond to our questions sent via WhatsApp, which sought to understand his reasons for removing journalists from the meeting.

What surprised many journalists removed from the meeting was that the decision was taken in the presence of Deputy Minister for Information, Communication and Information Technology, Kundo Andrea Mathew, who doubles as Bariadi MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM).

Confronted by journalists who waited outside the meeting hall to explain why he allowed the removal of reporters from the meeting, Mr Mathew declined to respond to journalists’ questions.

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Frank Kasamwa, the chairperson of the Simiyu Press Club, which defends the safety and welfare of journalists in the region, told The Chanzo that the incident constitutes a violation of the principles of press freedom.

“But I’m hesitant to issue a direct condemnation,” Mr Kasamwa warned. “We are still trying to establish whether the meeting was a public one or not and once we establish that we’ll be in a better position to react. But yes, it looks like a violation of the principle of press freedom.”

Government Chief Spokesperson Mobare Matinyi said that the incident would only be “problematic” had the meeting been public and not a private one, telling The Chanzo that he’s not in a position to issue a statement as he doesn’t have all the facts of the matter.

Reports of journalists being kicked out of the meeting come at a time when half (50 per cent) of Tanzanian journalists report that they have been threatened, harassed or assaulted at some time in their professional lives, according to a study by regional NGO Twaweza titled Sauti za Waandishi: A Survey of Tanzanian Media Practitioners.

READ MORE: Study Paints Gloomy Picture for Tanzania’s Journalists

According to the study, whose findings were released on February 16, 2024, and based on data from a unique survey of 1,202 practising journalists, editors and bloggers, two out of ten journalists in the country have been arrested or detained by the authorities, and similar numbers have experienced sexual harassment or abuse or have had equipment or materials seized from them.

Mr Simalenga is no stranger to controversy, too. On December 6, 2023, then serving as Songwe district commissioner, he became the target of a public outrage after he was accused of beating a girl named Florenencia Mjenda, causing her serious injuries. 

Mjenda claimed that the DC beat her on December 2, 2022, during a women’s football match where Mr Simalenga reportedly summoned Mjenda and hit her after accusing her of sitting at the wrong place, a place designated for dignitaries.

Mr Simalenga, however, has denied the reports, telling the media that nobody was beaten and that things did not turn out at the scene as they are being reported in the media.

“The only thing I did was to issue a warning [to the students],” Mr Simalenga is quoted as saying. “And the girl who claims that I slapped her I just held her hands and she apologised.”

READ MORE: ‘Outrageous’: DC Sparks Fury After Hitting a Girl, Causing Her Serious Injuries

During a mini reshuffle of her team of district and regional commissioners on January 25, 2023, President Samia Suluhu Hassan transferred Mr Simalenga from Songwe to Bariadi, one of the five districts of the Simiyu region in Tanzania’s lake zone region.

Matonyinga Makaro reports for The Chanzo from Mwanza. He’s available at

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