On April 30, 2015, unknown assailants on a motorcycle attacked John Kituyi, the editor and publisher of the Mirror Weekly, as he was walking home from work near his home in the western Kenyan town of Eldoret at around 7:30 p.m., hitting him repeatedly with a blunt object, according to news reports, Kituyi’s family members, and local journalists who spoke to CPJ.
The attackers took his phone but left other valuables such as his watch and wallet, the same sources said. Despite being rushed to Eldoret Hospital, Kituyi died of his injuries, which included a severe back wound and bruises across his body, according to news reports and a copy of a police report obtained by CPJ.
Prior to Kituyi’s death, the Mirror Weekly published a story headlined "Now ICC plot to jail Ruto," that described the latest developments in the International Criminal Court (ICC) case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, including the disappearance of a witness named Meshack Yebei. Ruto was charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly organizing part of the deadly violence that followed the December 2007 elections, in which more than 1,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced.
Two local journalists investigating Kituyi’s case told CPJ they believed he may have been targeted for an unpublished story concerning Yebei, who was originally a defense witness for Ruto but switched sides to support the prosecution, according to local journalists and news reports. Yebei went missing in late December 2014; a body found in February 2015 was later confirmed to be his through DNA testing, according to news reports.
Asked for comment, a spokesman for Ruto, David Mugonyi, dismissed claims of a connection between Kituyi’s death and his reporting on the ICC case. "I doubt the journalists’ ability to investigate [Kituyi’s] death. This is the province of the police and the journalists cannot purport to claim they know the reason or motive," he told CPJ. "Mainstream newspapers, which have a huge circulation, publish all manner of stories day in day out on the ICC and the deputy president, they are free to do so. Nothing happens to them."
On July 21, 2015, Police arrested a soldier, Nicholas Kathukya Kavili, in connection to Kituyi’s killing and charged him with violent robbery, according to a report by the privately owned Standard newspaper and a separate report by the free expression organization Article 19. Kavili was found with a SIM card that belonged to Kituyi, according to the Standard report. Kavili was released on a bond of 50,000 Kenya shillings (about $500) according to the same report. In 2018, Kavili was acquitted for lack of evidence, according to Article 19.
Kituyi, 63, previously worked as the Eldoret-based bureau chief for the Standard. A 25-year veteran journalist, Kituyi had been routinely threatened but continued publishing, local journalists told CPJ.