|JANUARY 13, 2005
Posted: February 8, 2005
Kamau Ngotho, The East African Standard
HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION
Journalist Ngotho was charged with criminal libel in a Nairobi court in connection with a story he wrote in the January 8 issue of the daily East African Standard detailing alleged links between the government of President Mwai Kibaki and big business, according to local and international news reports. The article said there was a "new-found working relationship" between "top money men" close to former President Daniel arap Moi and members of the Kibaki government.
Ngotho was charged under section 194 of the Penal Code, a colonial-era legal provision, with defaming businessman John Macharia. The journalist was released on bail of Ksh 20,000 (US$260).
On January 11, police had detained Kwamchetsi Makokha, associate editor of The East African Standard, and questioned him for four hours in connection with the same story, and under the same law.
In a joint statement from their embassies, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark condemned the use of the criminal libel laws and said the Kenyan government was showing a "disturbing regression toward practices of the old regime." They also wrote that, "We would have expected that the police and the Ministry of Justice pursuit of accountability for corrupt activities would encourage investigation of those responsible, not seek to muzzle those who ask questions."
Kibaki's government came to power in December 2002 with a promise to fight corruption and end human rights abuses perpetrated under the Moi regime.
On January 19, the government announced it was dropping charges against Ngotho after he was granted a request to have his case heard in the High Court. Ngotho had argued that the case violated constitutional rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
The government also declared that the archaic law under which he was charged would no longer be used. "Should any member of the public consider he/she has been libeled, he/she should pursue civil remedies in court rather than expect or invoke machinery of the State to investigate and institute criminal proceedings for libel," said Attorney General Amos Wako in a press statement.
NOVEMBER 16, 2005
Posted: December 2, 2005
The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), an official regulatory body, suspended the privately owned radio station Kass FM, which broadcasts in the local Kalenjin language from the capital, Nairobi. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua accused the station of inciting ethnic hatred and violence, but local journalists and opposition politicians said that the closure was politically motivated. The station was known for criticizing the government's draft constitution, which was put to a national referendum on November 21.
According to news reports, the CCK had not provided Kass FM with any prior warning or suspension order. The regulator did not provide any evidence for its allegations that the station had aired incendiary programs, and it asked the station's management to provide tapes of its transmissions for the past 21 days. The CCK said that after seven days, the station's management would have to defend Kass FM from a permanent suspension of its frequencies.
The government's action against Kass FM came against a backdrop of political unrest in Kenya during the run-up to the constitutional referendum, at which the controversial draft constitution was eventually rejected by voters. Eight members of parliament from the central Rift Valley Province, where many of the station's ethnic Kalenjin listeners live, protested the suspension, saying it was imposed in order to silence voices critical of the draft. The Kenyan Union of Journalists (KUJ) and the Nairobi-based Africa Free Media Foundation, an independent press freedom organization, also condemned the station's closure. Former president and current opposition leader Daniel Arap Moi, who is himself Kalenjin, had spearheaded the opposition to the draft; some local observers saw the CCK's action as a move to curtail his influence.
On November 18, authorities allowed Kass FM to begin broadcasting again. KUJ leader Ezekiel Mutua told CPJ that the decision to allow the station back on the air was a response to the protests from local journalists and media organizations. According to the independent daily The Nation, Kass FM's owner, C.K. Joshua, agreed to submit recordings of the station's broadcasts to the CCK for 90 days in exchange for permission to resume operations.
OCTOBER 3, 2005
Posted: December 8, 2005
Anderson Ojwang', The East African Standard
Baraka Karama, Kenya Television Network (KTN)
Ojwang', a correspondent for the independent daily The East African Standard, was beaten by youths bearing whips and sticks while trying to cover a government-organized meeting in the western town of Kakamega. The attack occurred outside a hotel where Vice President Moody Awori and several government ministers were meeting with local officials to encourage support for a controversial draft constitution backed by President Mwai Kibaki.
The attack occurred after Minister of Local Government Musikari Kombo asked the press to leave the hotel and accused journalists of giving negative coverage to those in favor of the draft, according to reports on KTN and in The East African Standard. Kombo later condemned the assault on Ojwang', according to the independent daily Nation.
The youths also forced Karama, a cameraman for the private Kenya Television Network (KTN), to leave the hotel, threatening to beat him as well, according to local news reports. In a KTN report the following day, one reporter said that the harassment of journalists in Kakamega had "created fear among journalists over their safety."
The draft constitution split the country and Kibaki's own government into two sides: "banana" for supporters of the draft and "orange" for opponents. A bitter campaign in the run-up to a November 21 referendum on the draft led to violent clashes between supporters and dozens of arrests, according to news reports.
The incidents in Kakamega occurred one week after some independent journalists were barred from attending "orange" rallies opposing the draft constitution in the nearby city of Kisumu. Opponents of the draft, including opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta, accused journalists from the Nation group of "misreporting and misrepresenting facts" in coverage of their rallies.