NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 11 – The Al Jazeera media network has expressed concern at the government’s order to investigate the organisation over a report aired alleging that Kenyan police operate death squads that target radical Islamists.
According to the Qatar-based TV network, the documentary was neither malicious nor unethical and pointed out that the promotional material for the documentary never claimed death squads had killed 500 clerics.
Al Jazeera also says the government was given ample opportunity to respond to the accusations.
The media network urged the government not to attack journalists or to curtail freedom of speech, but instead to confront the serious allegations.
“The identities of all persons interviewed and documents released were checked and verified. The International Criminal Court has spent more than four years examining evidence of extra-judicial killings said to have been committed by the President and his deputy. The case collapsed after the Prosecutor accused the GoK of “an unprecedented effort to intimidate and interfere with witnesses,” it said in a statement.
In the statement, the network indicated that the investigation was the confirmation of an allegation that has been widespread in Kenya for many years.
“In 2009, WikiLeaks published a document that provided evidence that over 500 young men were killed or made to disappear in a police campaign. The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions,” it said.
It further pointed out that the newly proposed security law attempts to restrict the work of professional journalists, and described it as an act of aggression and harassment.
“We note that the GoK is proposing new legislation seeking to punish journalists who are found guilty of “undermining security operations.”
According to reports, the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 seeks to jail such persons for up to three years or fine them Sh5 million or both. “Al Jazeera defends the right of journalists to freedom of expression and condemns attempts to restrict the work of professional journalism,” it explained.
On Tuesday, the government ordered Al Jazeera to be placed under investigation and face possible charges over the report describing it as “scandalous and unethical” while insisting that it “does not operate death squads.”
The government has filed a formal complaint with the Media Council of Kenya, requesting them to investigate Al Jazeera for professional misconduct.
The report by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit quoted men who claimed to be Kenyan anti-terrorist officers and who said they were involved in an assassination programme sanctioned by top police and government officials.
Britain and the United States provide funding for Kenya’s police anti-terrorism units.