, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1 – A group of human rights and media freedom defenders have called on the government to cease intimidating journalists and media houses amid impending arrests of Nation General Manager Linus Kaikai and two other journalists at the station.
Representatives from Amnesty International, Article 19, Katiba Institute and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights gathered outside Nation Centre where they condemned the government crackdown on media and individual journalists.
George Morara, Vice-Person of the KNCHR said they would do all in their powers to defend article 34 of the Constitution which guarantees media freedom saying Kenyans have a right to information.
“We want to call on the authorities to stop intimidating the mass media and unconditionally restore the right of Kenyan citizens to a free press,” he said.
CS Matiangi Wednesday vowed to investigate individual journalists and organizations whom he said were in collusion with NASA to cause mayhem and anarchy leading to the loss of lives during Raila Odinga’s oath.
“Journalism, we want to emphasize ladies and gentlemen is not a crime, the government must respect our Constitution at all times,” he affirmed.
Henry Maina from Article 19 decried what he called a deteriorating media freedom environment only reminiscent of the early 90’s during the dictatorship rule of the Moi regime.
“Let us not leave this fight to journalists only, if we don’t up to our game, the state is hell-bent on having a lapdog media which will not ask tough questions,” he decried.
“All of you who have been asking hard questions, if we don’t work hard, these will be the last questions we will ask as we cover government press conferences as they read statements that don’t make sense and we regurgitate them through reporting.”
Others who were targetted by the government for arrest on Wednesday night included senior anchor Ken Mijungu and technology editor Larry Madowo.
Fellow journalists at the Nation say Kaikai spent the night at the station ahead of an application by lawyers seeking to obtain anticipatory bail, or an order to block his arrest and prosecution.
Nation Media Group Editor In Chief Tom Mshindi said they have been operating under uncomfortable environment following the government’s shutdown of their TV station NTV, Citizen and KTN News as well as the crackdown of their senior journalists.
“It has been a very very difficult week for us, we are still off air and our journalists have been threatened with arrests. It’s a very sad moment for media freedom in this country,” Mshindi said
“If we don’t stand up, we will perish, we will go back to the days we don’t even want to remember.”
The group also vowed to move to court to seek orders compelling the government to bring back on air the stations which have been shut following Raila Odinga’s oath on Tuesday.
The representatives from Amnesty International, Article 19, Katiba Institute and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said the action to switch off TV stations was done without due process.
“There are going to be multiple applications by different partners. We understand that if we don’t engage this issue legally, there may be problems,” Maina said.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi said NTV, KTN News and Citizen TV that were taken off-air Tuesday will not be allowed to operate until investigations on their alleged involvement in NASA activities are complete.