Letters   |   Kenya

CPJ concerned about paralyzed journalist

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned about the plight of photojournalist Wallace Gichere, who is paralyzed from the waist down because of a 1991 incident in which Kenyan police officers threw him from a fourth floor residence. This crime was committed after Gichere wrote articles in the foreign press about abuses of civil and political rights in Kenya under former president Daniel arap Moi. In 2000, a government Standing Committee on Human Rights recommended that the State compensate Gichere for injuries and financial losses--a recommendation that was approved by government the same year. However, Gichere has still not received compensation.

In July 2002, after the journalist went on a hunger strike, Attorney General Amos Wako admitted liability but said the journalist's compensation claim was excessive, according to press reports. Gichere went on a hunger strike again for two weeks in December 2003. This time, the government said in Parliament and in public statements that it was offering him 9.4 million Kenyan shillings (US$123,520). Gichere agreed to end his hunger strike, although he says this sum does not even cover his medical bills since 1991. He and the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), which has been mediating in his case, have asked the government to explain and put the compensation offer in writing. However, they say their letters to Assistant Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Njeru Githae and a January 19 appeal to Your Excellency have so far gone unanswered.

Gichere says he is sick and weak and owes a large sum of money to creditors. His earning capacity has been totally compromised by his condition.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to defending the rights of our colleagues worldwide, we ask you to ensure that Gichere's claim for just compensation be settled in a speedy manner. We also urge Your Excellency to do everything within your power to see that those responsible for paralyzing Gichere be brought to justice.

We thank you for your attention in this matter.

Sincerely,

Ann Cooper
Executive Director


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