Deputy President William Ruto’s spokesman David Mugonyi on Sunday threatened Nation journalist Justus Wanga with unspecified consequences.
This was after an article written by Mr Wanga suggested a split between his boss (the DP) and President Uhuru Kenyatta over the new Cabinet line-up.
Mr Wanga, a Nation reporter, had in the article written of trouble in paradise over the list that was released in the absence of the DP, unlike in 2013, when the list was released with the Jubilee duo donning matching shirts, trousers and red ties.
“I want to be outright with you. Ukitaka kufutwa kazi, continue with that path, utafutwa, utafutwa, sikudanganyi, utafutwa (If you want to be fired, continue on that path, you will be fired, you will be fired, I assure you you will be fired),” Mr Mugonyi told Mr Wanga in a 50-second call heard by the Nation.
And in a series of text messages, Mr Mugonyi accused Mr Wanga of unethical journalism, claiming that he had carried falsehoods in the story.
And without explaining, Mr Mugonyi fired one more threat: “And if you guys continue with this nonsense we’ve options (sic).”
Mr Mugonyi, who holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University, London, is the communication secretary at the Deputy President's office.
The story was splashed by the Sunday Nation under the headline ‘Cabinet seats that split Uhuru, Ruto.’
In the article, Mr Wanga quotes sources saying that the DP was, at the time President Kenyatta named the Cabinet, in the country, and had reported to work at Harambee House Annex, claims Mr Mugonyi termed as false.
“The DP reported to which Harambee House Annex? He’s never been there since December 20. Why do you cook untruths?” Mr Mugonyi asked in the text message.
He went on: “You people should respect the journalism profession. You have made it full of nonsense. Am ashamed to claim to be a journalist (sic). Your story is talking about cracks please you can please Nasa as much as you want.”
In the series of texts, Mr Mugonyi said that the DP was in Eldoret on December 23, before he flew to Nairobi and onwards on a trip out of the country.
“You are not to continue this path. The Nation owners have a responsibility to the truth and must ensure journalists practise the truth not spew bar rumours and innuendos and untruths,” Mr Mugonyi warned.
“And if you guys continue with this nonsense we’ve options. You are not to continue this path,” he warned.
At 3.24pm on Sunday, the DP tweeted using his verified Twitter handle, indicating that all was well.
“Kenyans, more so Jubilee should avoid useless political debates about positions including 2022 and focus single-mindedly on delivering our manifesto voted for by the people while allowing the President the space to perform his constitutional duty to assemble the team for us,” the DP said in the tweet.
The Kenya Union of Journalists condemned the attacked on Mr Wanga and criticised Mr Mugonyi for threatening to influence his sacking from Nation Media Group.
In a statement, Secretary-General Erick Oduor said: “This kind of impunity among senior government officials should not be tolerated and [I] demand that action is taken against Mr Mugonyi. We must defend good journalism and tell Mr Mugonyi and his agents that journalists are not politicians and shall do their job for public good.”
He added: “If he thrives in his work by issuing threats to journalists to please his employer, it is high time [he] quits his job because stories that meet the standards set by newsrooms will be told whether he likes it or not.”