A media rights group expressed indignation over statements made by officials in Tanzania and South Africa justifying the detention of two of its employees.

New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said officials from both countries falsely claimed the two employees -- CPJ's Africa program coordinator Angela Quintal and sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumo -- were in Tanzania without proper visas when they were detained and interrogated.

In a statement Monday, CJP said both women were traveling on valid visas, as part of a fact-finding trip to better understand local press freedom conditions in Tanzania.

CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said "we are outraged by their treatment at the hands of Tanzanian authorities," and said CPJ has "concluded that the intention of Tanzanian authorities was to harass and intimidate our team."

Simon said CPJ is also disappointed that South Africa's foreign minister repeated falsehoods about the detention after helping to assist the journalists in Tanzania.

Last week, Tanzanian immigration authorities took the women from their Dar es Salaam hotel and held them at an unknown location for several hours of questioning.

Ali Mtanda, spokesman for Tanzania's immigration department, told VOA last week that the "CPJ officials admitted that they were in the country to meet journalists, which violates their visa requirements."

Mtanda said the visa applications of the CPJ officials "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.

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.

Last week, the U.S. State Department criticized Tanzania's government for violating its citizens' civil liberties and human rights, including arrests of members of the LGBTQ community.

"The United States government is deeply concerned over escalating attacks and legislative actions by the government of Tanzania that violate civil liberties and human rights, creating an atmosphere of violence, intimidation, and discrimination," the State Department said.

Source: Voice of America

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