Kenyan journalist receives threats for investigating murder

New York, December 22, 2010–A Kenyan journalist whose reporting has helped expose and publicize the unsolved 2009 murder of reporter Francis Nyaruri received two anonymous threatening phone calls on Friday warning he could “share Nyaruri’s fate,” according to local journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on authorities to thoroughly investigate the threats and provide Sam Owida, a reporter for the private daily Nation, with protection.

Owida told CPJ that the caller, who claimed to be part of the local Sungu Sungu militia that operates in western Kenya, asked if he was the journalist who publicized the killing of Nyaruri and said they were “on to him.” In interviews with CPJ, local journalists said they believe two suspects in custody for the murder of Nyaruri may be affiliated with the Sungu Sungu. The threats have forced Owida to take precautions and change locations frequently, he said.  

Local police official Naomi Ichami was quoted in news reports as saying that the district criminal investigation officer had launched an investigation into the matter.

“We are alarmed by the threats against Sam Owida and call on the authorities to thoroughly investigate,” said Tom Rhodes, CPJ’s East Africa consultant. “Authorities must ensure Owida’s safety and revive investigations into Nyaruri’s brutal murder.” 

A close friend of Nyaruri, Owida was the first person to identify the bound and decapitated body of the late reporter. At the private Weekly Citizen, Nyaruri had exposed corruption by the local administration in the western town of Nyamira, the victim’s relatives told CPJ. While many journalists were afraid to cover the story, Owida spoke on vernacular radio stations in western Kenya and published reports in several newspapers highlighting Nyaruri’s murder and subsequent investigations.