, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 25 – Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has termed as, “irritating,” an attempt by the American government to, “prefect,” press freedom in Kenya.
He told journalists at his Teleposta Tower offices on Friday that American Ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec, had attempted to lecture him over the summoning of two Kenyan journalists and their CEO by police on Thursday; something he found, “almost silly.”
“Some guy about town finds it necessary to speak now from an elevated position with that supervisory attitude, oh we are urging the Kenya government, as if they are talking to their children,” he said.
But even as he claimed not to speak in his official capacity but, “as a Kenyan,” he went on to affirm that the Kenyan government’s commitment to press freedom was not guaranteed by the American government but by the Constitution.
“We continue to do what we have pledged to do. We don’t have to wake up in the morning to that kind of supervisory, prefectorial attitude of being told respect press freedom and so on. They didn’t give us the Constitution. We gave it to ourselves and we have sworn to live by it,” he continued to say.
The censure did not stop at the American government with Matiang’i accusing all those who had, “condemned,” the government over the journalists’ summoning of blowing matters out of proportion.
“Us in this day and age to be told about press freedom by anybody, including the American Ambassador… In Kenya? In the 21st Century?” he posed incredulously.
They didn’t give us the Constitution. We gave it to ourselves and we have sworn to live by it
The outburst aside, Matiang’i, “hypothetically,” admitted that the Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo may have made a mistake by summoning the journalists instead of referring the matter to the Media Council of Kenya.
“Let us assume I come here, I’m a public official, I make a mistake, I make a pronouncement out there which actually doesn’t auger well…which of the two is the better option? To immediately go to a press conference and condemn or engage on a one-on-one level?” he again posed.
But despite his reticence to admit Kimaiyo made a mistake, he made it clear that Kimaiyo had acted, “in his own opinion,” and not that of the government.
“Just because a senior police official said I am summoning so and so because in my view in doing their work a crime may have been committed is that enough to expend the amount of energy we have expended in the last two days?” he posed incredulously.
To be told about press freedom by anybody, including the American Ambassador… In Kenya? In the 21st Century?
But even as he desperately sought to put an unfazed face on the reaction to the summons, they must have had an impact for sources from within government told Capital FM News that the summonses were withdrawn within hours of their issuance on Thursday.
It’s also worth noting that Matiang’i acted in an indirect capacity for the US Embassy as a liaison between Parliament and USAID before his appointment to public office.