Lindiwe Sisulu guides SA diplomatic help for CPJ's Angela Quintal

South Africa's Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu .
South Africa's Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu .
Image: Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images

The department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) says it is engaging with the Tanzanian government to get it to return the passports of South African journalist Angela Quintal and her Kenyan colleague Muthoki Mumo‚ who were detained by law enforcement in Tanzania.

The department announced on Thursday that Quintal and Mumo were released following their detention on Wednesday.

“…They are safe and relieved that they are now with the High Commissioner of South Africa‚ Thami Mseleku‚” the department said in a statement.

“The High Commissioner briefed minister Sisulu last night (Wednesday) and early this morning. The High Commissioner and his Kenyan diplomats will continue to engage with Tanzanian authorities until the passports are returned and all the facts have been established around the arrest‚” Dirco said.

The department said it will keep South Africans and the media informed of all developments as Sisulu is being kept informed and briefed of all developments.

On Thursday‚ the World Editors’ Forum and global newspaper association Wan-Ifra condemned the journalists’ detention.

“The WEF is deeply concerned at this infringement of their rights and the freedom of the press‚ especially after their devices and social accounts seem to have been compromised‚” it said in a statement.

The American government also weighed in on Quintal and Mumo’s arrest. CNN quoted a US State Department spokesperson as saying they were "closely following" the case.

"We continue to engage with our government of Tanzania counterparts on a wide range of issues‚ including those related to human rights‚" the State Department was quoted as saying. "The United States remains committed to the values of democracy‚ rule of law‚ freedom of expression‚ and prosperity in Tanzania."

Quintal and Mumo are in Tanzania on a reporting mission for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and were reportedly detained on Wednesday evening.

Quintal‚ who is the Africa Programme co-ordinator for the CPJ‚ had sent a message on her Facebook page‚ stating that she and Mumo were being detained.

"SOS we are being taken away for interrogation in Dar. We don't know why. Taken from Southern Sun Hotel‚" she said.South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) told TimesLIVE that the pair had been released on Thursday morning.

"Following a very long night by the High Commissioner‚ the two journalists have been brought back into their hotel. High Commissioner [Thami] Mseleku is meeting with them to understand the events of last night‚" Dirco spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya told TimesLIVE.

Meanwhile‚ the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) called for the government to find answers as to why the pair had been detained.

"Sanef calls on government to quickly resolve the worrying detention of South African journalist Angela Quintal and her colleague Muthoki Mumo‚" said chairperson Mahlatse Gallens.

Shedding details on their arrest‚ Gallens said: "After approximately five hours‚ Quintal and Mumo were returned to their Dar es Salaam hotel‚ at around 3am - but without their passports. Details and reasons for the detention are still not clear."

Hours after their arrest‚ a message was posted on Quintal's Twitter page to say they had since been released. But her family took to social media to state that the message was not sent by her.

On this matter‚ Gallens said it was unclear whether Tanzanian authorities had taken Quintal’s phone. A number of her social media profiles have been deactivated.

"Sanef believes these are very worrying developments. We need to urgently find out the reasons behind this detention. Further‚ the journalists’ passports and phones need to be immediately returned. We believe the arbitrary detention of journalists is a direct and dangerous threat to media freedom and access to information‚" she said.

Mabaya said they were yet to consult with Quintal and Mumo to establish what had led to their detention.