, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 – The dark days of the Kanu era appeared to make a creepy comeback Tuesday, when Nation Parliamentary Editor John Ngirachu was arrested as the government demanded he discloses sources of a story on the audit query of Sh3.8bn at the Interior Ministry.
Ngirachu was arrested as Interior Ministry Cabinet Secretary Nkaissery warned the media and leaders against claiming there was corruption in high government offices, unless they could substantiate the claims.
“We are witnessing an upsurge of irresponsible utterances by leaders, inciting populations against one other. Therefore I issue a stern warning to the war mongers, any person who utters inciting statements with potential of causing disharmony will be held to account,” Nkaissery warned.
Ngirachu was Tuesday evening being questioned over a story published by the Daily Nation on the misappropriation of Sh3.8 billion at the Interior Ministry, which quoted documents tabled before a parliamentary committee.
“It is a way to tell you, you cannot get away with allegations; it’s up to you… if you don’t want to reveal your sources then you will fry alone,” Nkaissery cautioned journalists.
The arrest was immediately condemned by colleagues, and the Opposition who termed it an attack on press freedom.
“The Jubilee administration has tried in vain to reintroduce criminal libel law in Kenya over the past two years it has been in power and it has now opted to explore unorthodox means to clampdown on the media,” said Kenya Union of Journalists Secretary General Erick Oduor.
Oduor added that forcing journalists to reveal their news sources cannot be entertained in a democratic country like Kenya.
Nkaissery also ordered investigations against Gatundu South Member of Parliament Moses Kuria following statements he made at a vernacular radio station Tuesday morning about alleged graft at the Interior Ministry.
“Anybody who will be making untrue allegations will be arrested, the government will not accept his (sic) people, the security of its citizens the protection of their property to be undermined just because somebody is paying money to the media to tarnish the name of the government,” he warned adding that the security agencies are under instruction to invite anyone who makes claims of corruption publicly to share their information in their possession with the security agents for further investigation.
“if these claims are false or intended to cause disaffection against the government, contribute to economic sabotage or contribute towards generating insecurity , then the said person will be held personally account,” he added.
Opposition chief Raila Odinga told the government “to respect the timeless tradition that journalists are duty bound to protect the sources of information they have as long as that information is of immense public interest.”
“I demand that the young man be freed immediately to pursue his career. Kenya has to move forward and close the chapter of repression and opaqueness in the management of public affairs permanently. I appeal to my colleagues in government to stop entertaining the idea that Kenya can move backwards or stand still.”
He said he had instructed lawyers James Orengo (Siaya Senator) and Paul Mwangi to get in touch with the Nation Media Group and take up the young editor’s case pro bono to defend the rights and privileges of the media for the sake of Kenya.