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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

APRIL 9, 2003

James Ng'ang'a, The Nation
George Omonso, The Nation
Wanyama Chebusiri, BBC
Wily Faria, East African Standard

Ng'ang'a and Omonso, Eldoret-based correspondents for the daily Nation; BBC correspondent Chebusiri; and East African Standard correspondent Faria were attacked by police in western Kenya near the Ugandan border while covering a demonstration by local residents in the village of Kainuk. The villagers were protesting the government's failure to take action against bandits from neighboring Uganda who were raiding the area.

During the demonstration, police opened fire on the crowd, killing one person. When police saw the journalists setting up their cameras, officers beat the journalists and confiscated their equipment. Ng'ang'a was thrown to the ground and pushed into a police vehicle, where he was briefly detained. Police eventually returned the journalists' equipment but took their tapes and told them they would not be returned.

JULY 8, 2003
Posted: January 27, 2005

Peter Makori, freelance

Makori, a freelance journalist based in Kisii, in western Kenya, was arrested, charged with the murder of two local chiefs and detained from July 2003 to May 2004 without trial. He says he was tortured in custody as security agents tried to coerce a confession. Makori was freed after the country's Attorney General dismissed the case, and the High Court ordered his release.

Makori believes local officials conspired to keep him in detention because of his reports alleging rape and murder by a local militia that enjoyed the support of the District Commissioner. Some of these reports were broadcast on BBC radio in June 2003, just before his arrest. He had also been investigating corruption by local officials.

After his release, Makori announced his intention to sue the state over his imprisonment. However, he said that he had not pursued the claim because he received threats and feared for his security. Several human rights organizations have taken up his case. The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) told CPJ it believes Makori's ordeal was linked to his work as a journalist, and that it was investigating the case.

SEPTEMBER 29, 2003
Posted: September 29, 2003
Updated: April 7, 2005

David Makali, East African Standard
Kwamchetsi Makokha, East African Standard
Tom Mshindi, East African Standard

Sunday Editor Makali, Associate Editor Makokha, and Managing Director Mshindi from Kenya's oldest daily newspaper, the East African Standard, which is based in the capital, Nairobi, reported to the police at around 1 p.m. after receiving a summons. According to Mshindi, police released him and his colleague Makokha after about six hours and told them to report to police headquarters the next morning, September 30. They told CPJ that they were extremely worried about Makali, who remained in police custody.

The arrests came after the paper published leaked excerpts of confessions to the police by a suspected murderer of Crispin Odhiambo Mbai, who headed a key committee at Kenya's Constitutional Review Conference, in its Sunday, September 28 edition. Mbai was killed on September 14. The article reported that some of the suspects had fingered a prominent politician in the ruling National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) party as having masterminded the murder.

Mshindi told CPJ that he and his colleagues were separated for questioning, and that police repeatedly asked the journalists to reveal their sources, which they refused to do. After being released at around 7:30 p.m., Mshindi and Makokha said they spent the evening trying unsuccessfully to discover Makali's whereabouts. On Tuesday, September 30, Makali was allowed to meet briefly with Mshindi and Makokha and with members of his family, said Mshindi.

After failing to get the journalists to reveal their sources, authorities pursued charges in court against Makali and a police officer, John Chemweno. According to Standard lawyers, Makali and Chemweno were taken to High Court in Nairobi on Wednesday, October 1, where Makali was charged with stealing a cassette that belonged to the police and contained videotaped confessions. The charge was later changed to theft of a copy of a tape and handling stolen property.

Makali was detained until October 1, when he and the police officer were released on bail of 5,000 Kenyan shillings (US$66) each.

The newspaper, whose original article on the confessions referred to a police report, not to tapes, consistently denied that it ever had a police videotape. Makali, who faced a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment if convicted, pleaded not guilty.

On April 4, 2005, the Chief Magistrates' Court in Nairobi acquitted both Makali and Chemweno of all charges. Chief Magistrate Aggrey Muchelule stated in his judgment that the case against Makali and the police officer had not been established by the prosecution, according to news reports.

The judge also said that "in any case, the fruits of any investigation which are in possession of the police are not their property but that of the public," according to news reports. To convict Makali, he ruled, would contravene constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.

Local journalists welcomed this interpretation, as they have pushed for a separate law mandating free access to official information for years. A draft Freedom of Information bill was pending before the Kenyan parliament, according to local news reports.