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MOA protests police role in Uhuru story probe

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 27 – The Media Owners Association (MOA) has written to Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere over the alleged harassment of three journalists at the Standard newspaper over an article that had claimed a member of the \’Ocampo Six\’ allegedly lost a bag containing Sh840 million.

According to MOA, the action by the police is an affront on media freedom and goes against provisions set aside in the new Constitution.

In the letter, MOA chairman Samuel K. Macharia expressed concern over what he termed efforts by those in authority to interfere with media operations.

"It was noted that The Standard newspaper had already retracted the story and apologised, which is consistent with best international media practices," he stated and added that there was no need for the high level investigative resources of the police to be used in a matter which had already been addressed.

Officers from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) have interrogated two editors and a writer from the Standard over the story.

Mr Macharia said that for those who feel aggrieved, there are other means of recourse like arbitration and administrative solutions in dealing with such challenges while assuring the rights of the affected parties.

"Media Owners also believe that there are more compelling matters of national interest that the police resources should be deployed to," he added. 

The paper wrote the story on April 15 indicating that one of the suspects facing charges at The Hague lost the money at the JKIA after arriving from The Hague.

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Even though the story did not name the person who lost the items, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta then came out stating that the report referred to him.

He termed it an "atrocious falsehood and part of the current conspiracy to discredit him" adding that he had advised his lawyers to take legal action against the media house.

The reporters were subsequently summoned and grilled by the CID over the story. On Tuesday the Central Organisation of Trade Unions called on the police not to harass the concerned journalists.

The Kenya Editors\’ Guild also came out in defence of the journalists saying that they did not mention the deputy Premier in their report.

The police had announced that they had recovered items belonging to Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta that went missing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

The items which included one leather bag, two iPads, three external hard disks, one data processor, two mobile phones and computer accessories, were found in various places within the country. 

Nine Kenyans were arrested in connection with the theft and four of them had already been arraigned in court.

The suspects were arrested at the airport while others were nabbed in Nyahururu.

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