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State harassment: Kenyan Journalists continues to suffer… Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by KOKONYA O PATRICK, Kenya Mar 2, 2007
Citizen Journalism   Opinions


The Kenya government’s relationship with the media perhaps began to deteriorate when the First Lady Lucy Kibaki dramatically stormed into the Nairobi premises of the Nation Media Group shortly before midnight on May 2, 2005, accompanied by her bodyguards and the then Nairobi police boss, King’ori Mwangi. She stayed for several hours in the offices of the Daily Nation, insulting and threatening journalists because of their "unfair" reports about her and demanding their immediate arrest. To me, this is also abuse of her office. In fact, she owes Kenyans an apology.
When she realised that KTN cameraman Clifford Derrick had been filming the scene, she leaped at him, slapping him hard and trying unsuccessfully to snatch his camera. Derrick filed a complaint with police in that month while the First Lady filed a request for sanctions with the Media Council, whose job it is to regulate the press. The suit against Lucy was, however, thrown out by the Attorney General.
Wonders never cease and hard ears never heal by any medicine. Shroud people never learn from the mistakes of others. On May 6, Stephen Orwenyo, the director of the Sangany tea plant in Kisii town physically attacked Angwenyi Gichani, Nation’s correspondent in Nyamira. In the presence of his company’s chairman, Migiro Ongwae, Orwenyo hit Gichani with a chair after accusing him of covering his activities in a "negative" manner. Security guards at the hotel where the incident took place rescued Gichani. For information of all
In the face of this numerous incidents of media harassment, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) last year called on the Kenyan authorities to apologise for violent attacks on the Press. No answer! IFJ asked the Government to reassure journalists that there would be no more acts of intimidation and violence against reporters and media staff.
All these heinous acts against Kenyans’ right to information, freedom of expression and the right to security that legal entities are entitled to need more answers. The big question is “What makes our leaders so paranoid and insecure about the media?” The media do not exist to rattle the State or pander to its whims. They exist solely to inform, entertain, educate and objectively provide a platform for debate on burning issues of the day so that the public can make informed decisions and choices.
My dear young colleagues and people of good will know that a free media is like a torch that shines within the country, keeping darker forces away — or at least in the periphery. The enduring lesson is that the enjoyment of rights always has a price — and we as citizens are ready to defend it to the hilt. More importantly, however, it is a lesson we at TIG should never forget and tire of reminding the people at whose pleasure governments are formed. Press freedom is freedom to the citizens. Aluta Continua! TIG moves on with information like a bush fire. (Kokonya O Patrick, Young Political Leader from Kenya working in Youth Development based in Juba, South Sudan).

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