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March 03, 2006

Freedom of Speech

While we’re all in a lather over freedom of speech, Irving, cartoons, Livingstone and Griffin, a further story:

Masked police with automatic rifles stormed a leading Kenyan media firm yesterday, kicking down doors, burning newspapers and forcing its television station off the air.

Staff were forced on to the ground as officers ransacked the headquarters of Kenya Television Network and the printing press of The Standard, the country's oldest newspaper.
...

According to Tom Mshindi, of the group, the armed men, carrying AK-47 rifles and said to number at least 100, arrived in unmarked four-wheel-drive vehicles at about midnight.

His journalists recognised several as being members of an elite cadre of Kenya's police force.
...

Kenyans are proud of their robust free media, which have printed forceful articles criticising Mr Kibaki's dithering over the corruption crippling his administration.

"This is a direct and blatant attempt to undermine the freedom of the press," Mr Mshindi said of the raid. "It is intended to paralyse our business."

Mutahi Kagwe, the information minister, denied responsibility for the raid.

"The ministry that I run has definitely not ordered anything of the sort," he said.

However, John Michuki, the interior minister, said the clampdown was necessary to assert the state's authority in the face of repeated attacks by The Standard.

"If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it," he told journalists yesterday.

You can catch up with further news at The Standard’s website. Their editorial on the subject, a report on the bail hearings of the three journalists:

According to a charge sheet presented to court, the Republic of Kenya through the Police, had lodged the complaint against the journalists. The Officer Commanding Central Police Station signed the charge sheet. Applying for their release on favourable bond terms, their lawyers told the court that their clients had been held outside the mandatory legal period of 24 hours.

Indeed, held for 72 hours. A couple of pieces of cheering news:

Also at the court premises were members of the diplomatic corps from Britain and European Union.

And a report on the diplomatic reactions:

The US Government has condemned the police raid on the Standard Group offices and called for the prosecution of those who carried out the acts.
In a statement, it asked the Government to respect the freedom of media and expression.

"These acts of thuggery have no place in an open democratic society. We deplore the current campaign of vilification and harassment of a selected media. Clearly, their intent is to intimidate journalists, restrict freedom of the Press and deny Kenyans their right to information and opinion," the statement from its embassy in Nairobi, read.

"We note that these attacks were preceded by threats directed against The Standard from representatives of the Government," it said.

"We call upon the Government of Kenya to disavow today’s actions, identify and discipline those responsible, and cease efforts to intimidate the media. The government must respect internationally accepted rules of freedom of Press and charge or release promptly those members of the Standard Group currently in detention," stated the embassy.

The heads of Mission of European countries based in Nairobi also condemned the raids, saying the action constituted an unacceptable attack on the freedom of the press.

They urged the Government to issue an immediate statement about the incident and state what actions the Government would take to investigate what eye-witness reports suggest were cases of assault, theft, unlawful destruction of property, kidnapping and harassment.

Update. Alex has more including where you can write to protest.

March 3, 2006 in Media | Permalink

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» An Epidemic from baldilocks
Or maybe the suppression of free expression is just more noticeable in this age. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki appears to be taking some totalitarian steps that are frightening to me personally, as well as being another blow to an Africa [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 4, 2006 11:35:18 PM

» An Epidemic from baldilocks
Or maybe the suppression of free expression is just more noticeable in this age. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki appears to be taking some totalitarian steps that are frightening to me personally, as well as being another blow to an Africa [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 4, 2006 11:37:04 PM

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