NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 20 – The Kenya Editor\’s Guild has lodged a complaint against the alleged harassment and intimidation of three journalists from the Standard Group by police over a report that a member of the \’Ocampo Six\’ allegedly lost a bag containing $10 million.
The three journalists were summoned to the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters on Monday and interrogated for more than two hours.
They were due to return on Tuesday for another round of questioning, but were told to await further communication from the CID.
"The article in question did not name the person who allegedly lost the money, but Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Uhuru Kenyatta subsequently volunteered that he was the one being referred to," the Editors\’ Guild chairman Macharia Gaitho pointed out in a statement.
Mr Kenyatta denied through a spokesman having lost any such sum, describing the entire story as an "atrocious falsehood and part of the current conspiracy to discredit him.
He said he had instructed his lawyers to take legal action against the newspaper and also disclosed that he had asked the police to investigate the very serious crimes that are committed by anyone who make such serious false accusations.
After undertaking internal investigations the Standard subsequently retracted the report.
Mr Gaitho expressed shock that after the Standard retracted the report; the police have taken up the matter as a criminal investigation. Read the full statement here.
"The police are well aware that no law in the land allows them to pursue as a criminal matter an issue that is purely of civil nature. Mr Kenyatta has already instructed his lawyers to take action against The Standard. That is the proper course of action if he indeed remains persuaded that he was the unnamed person who allegedly lost $10 million. He can also seek redress through the Complaints mechanism established by law under the Media Council of Kenya."
Mr Gaitho added: "Involving the police in this matter indicates contempt for media freedom and a willingness to misuse the police force in pursuit of private goals," he stated. "The police can only be acting under extreme pressure from persons in high office to pursue oppressive investigations that are clearly illegal and unconstitutional. No law in Kenya can be twisted to compel journalists to betray their sources."
He stated that relying on section 66 (1) of the penal code would be a deliberate and wilful misinterpretation of the law since the section can only contemplate instances where false reports might excite fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace.
It states that: "Any person who publishes any false statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace is guilty of a misdemeanour."
According to the Editor\’s Guild, relying on this section can only be "a deliberate and wilful misinterpretation of the law and that the section can only contemplate instances where false reports might excite fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace."
"It is clear that public will suffer no fear and alarm or any disturbance to public peace because of an allegedly false report about Mr Kenyatta or any other individual, whether named or unnamed," the statement pointed out.
The section states specifically, that: "Freedom and independence of electronic, print and all other types of media is guaranteed."
It also provides that the: "The State shall not exercise control over or interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of information by any medium; or penalise any person for any opinion or view."