CPJ condemns break-in at Nairobi Law Monthly

New York, September 9, 2011Thieves broke into the offices of the Nairobi Law Monthly early this morning, stealing computers containing critical information for the magazine’s October issue, Editor Dennis Ben Musota told CPJ. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation.

In what appears to have been a well-planned operation, the thieves cut through a metal fence, used a ladder to break into the magazine’s offices situated one floor above ground level, and then turned all the closed-circuit cameras upward to hide their activities, according to local reports. The assailants attacked two security guards with machetes and tied them up, Musota said, leaving the two with injuries that required treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital. The attackers stole two computers and two external hard drives with information for a special, 200-page anniversary edition, Musota added. The edition was expected to include a piece on alleged corruption in the administration of President Mwai Kibaki, the publication’s lawyer, Paul Muite, told CPJ.

Publisher Ahmednasir Abdullahi told CPJ he suspects government involvement in the raid and said he would release the next edition despite the break-in. “The raid is one more desperate act of a government defined by impunity and utter contempt for the rule of law. Nariobi Monthly will not be intimidated,” he said. No valuables were stolen besides the computers and hard drives; the thieves were apparently focused on the contents of paper’s computers since a ground-level computer store was left untouched, he said. Muite and Abdullahi reported the matter to the Parklands Police Station. Gigiri Police Chief Josek Nasio.

“The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the break-in at the Nairobi Law Monthly, clearly designed to silence the investigative publication’s critical reporting,” CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes said. “Authorities must break from the past and do everything in their power to identify and arrest the perpetrators of this crime.”

The founder of Nairobi Law Monthly, Member of Parliament Gitobu Imanyara called on the security minister and the police commissioner to expedite investigations, according to a parliamentary press conference. Imanyara said the raid had all the hallmarks of one carried out by “hired goons” and that it brought back memories of a 2006 raid on the offices of the Standard Media Group, according to local reports.

In March 2006, state agents raided the offices of the Standard Media Group, owner of the independent daily The Standard and KTN Television in the capital, Nairobi. The agents seized computers and tapes, vandalized a printing press and burned roughly 20,000 copies of The Standard, local journalists told CPJ. No one has been held accountable for raid.