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Ethnicity a peril for Kenya ahead of 2012

NUREMBERG, Germany, Sep 23 – UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue on Friday said Kenya’s main challenge as the next general election approaches is how to manage politics and ethnicity.

Speaking during an International Conference on Freedom of Expression and Press Freedom in Nuremberg, he said it would be crucial for Kenyans to separate politics from ethnicity for the sake of winning peace.

“Kenya is going through a difficult time in terms of the next election, because the electoral debates are also becoming ethnically oriented. This is very dangerous we should never mix elections or political ambitions with ethnical differences,” he asserted.

He believed that the mixture is likely to result to ‘political confrontations’ likely to spur violent situations.

Knowing the key role that media plays in any society, he stressed the importance of governments allowing press freedom and freedom of expression.

“Many countries don’t agree but there should be freedom to exchange cultures, right to receive and disseminate information,” he said.

Rue further urged governments to protect journalists as it is their duty to inform the public and expose facts.

He said threatening or limiting rights of the media was a violation of a right and should not be the case in nay government.

“Journalists have the right to ask… to find out and express the truth of their findings for the public. The issue of censorship which means no access to information is a violation of a right,” he added.

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The conference also discussed the whistleblower website WikiLeaks where Rue said it was up to different governments to manage their affairs but not limit the freedom of individuals.

“You should not shoot the messenger. The Internet server carried all that information, it does not make them liable for the information itself as long as it does not put anyone in physical jeopardy,” he argued.

He added: “That information did not compromise security of any country. The information was very embarrassing because it was a huge amount of information and very embarrassing for many politicians around the world. But embarrassment is not a national security threat, so it was legitimate to publish.”

The three-day conference that started on Friday will be discussing issues around freedom of expression and media freedom.


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