May 15, 2006
Posted: June 2, 2006
National Security Minister John Michuki warned local journalists that he would use force against local media outlets that criticized the government, according to local and international news reports. Referring to March raids on a prominent newspaper, The Standard, and a television station owned by the same media group, Michuki said, “I have no apologies to make on the destruction that the government meted out,” and added that he would “order for a repeat performance to any media house which is out to destroy the government.”
The minister’s statements were provoked by a cartoon in the Kenyan daily The Nation depicting him carrying out an armed attack on the local radio station Hope FM, according to The Standard. Three days before, unidentified gunmen had opened fire on the evangelical Christian station, which had run a series of programs encouraging Muslims to convert to Christianity.
The raids in March were widely condemned by local journalists, human rights organizations, and foreign diplomats. Heavily armed and masked police officers raided the offices of The Standard, Kenya’s oldest newspaper, harassing staff, vandalizing equipment, and setting fire to roughly 20,000 copies of that day’s edition. The offices of the Kenya Television Network (KTN), which is owned by the Standard Group and was Kenya’s first independent television station, were also raided.
Tapes and computer equipment confiscated in the raids have yet to be returned, according to local news reports.
At the time, Michuki defended the raids on state security grounds. “If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it,” he said, according to international news reports. Police followed up with a statement justifying the raid on grounds that the newspaper had accepted money to print “a series of fabricated articles aimed at achieving instability.” However, no proof of such was ever made public.