Editor's guild accuses President Kenyatta of gagging media over coverage

Tuesday January 30 2018

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By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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The Kenya Editors’ Guild (KEG) has condemned direct threats by the Jubilee government against the media.

In a written statement, the Guild accused President Uhuru Kenyatta of threatening the press over the coverage of the ongoing political events in the country.

In the dispatch issued to newsrooms Monday evening through its chairman Linus Kaikai, the Guild reminded the government that the media is not an actor in the ongoing contest between Jubilee Party and Nasa over the outcome of the last General Election.

'PUBLIC INTEREST'

“The media remains a mere messenger and a chronicler of any events happening in our country. Our country's vibrant media is made up of competent professionals in journalists and editors that continue to make sound decisions on what constitutes news, in public interest,” Mr Kaikai said.

On Friday last week, a section of media managers and select editors from the main media houses were quietly summoned to a meeting at the State House, Nairobi, which angered the Guild.

The Guild said, the brief meeting attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, ICT Secretary Joe Mucheru and AG Githu Muigai KEG did not bode well for the freedom of expression and press in the country.

At the meeting, President Kenyatta expressly threatened to shut down and revoke the licences of any media house that will broadcast live Tuesday’s planned swearing-in of Nasa leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, the statement said.

“The Guild is appalled by the details of the meeting which was held under an atmosphere of intimidation for the media representatives present,” Mr Kaikai said in the statement.

Media Owners Association (MOA) chairman Hannington Gaya confirmed the tone of the meeting was like a "dressing down" in which the media was "read the riot act". 

“This brazen threat is intended to intimidate the media from performing its rightful role of informing the public on matters affecting them.

"We condemn and reject the threats and purported instructions issued at the State House on Friday,” he said, insisting that as a fraternity, the media  remains committed to professional ethics and credible editorial practices free from undue interference.

BILL OF RIGHTS

Mr Kaikai called on all media houses and journalists to carry on their work diligently and to report impartially on all matters of public interest as they have always done.

"The government must ensure that journalists are neither harmed nor intimidated as they perform their work," he said.

He reminded the government on the need to respect the freedom of the media guaranteed in Article 34 of the Constitution, the right of the public to information (Article 35) and desist from outdated methods of repression and to also respect the Bill of Rights.

Meanwhile, the Kenya Correspondents Association also condemned threats to media freedom and warned against any move to close down any media station or intimidate individual journalists.
“KCA joins all progressive forces that cherish liberty against any anti- media freedom acts by the state to ensure press freedom as guaranteed under Article 34 of the Constitution of Kenya (2010) is not undermined in any way,” KCA Chairman Oloo Janak said in a statement.