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Arrest warrants issued against four journalists from the "Weekly Citizen"

(RSF/IFEX) - Arrest warrants were issued against four journalists from the tabloid "Weekly Citizen" by a judge, Aggrey Muchelule, on 22 February 2006, two days after police raided its offices and arrested staff at the paper and its street vendors.

On the orders of Prosecutor Stephen Chacha, the court charged managing editor Tom Alwaka and journalists David Matende, Charles Mwangi and John Wafula, in their absence, for publishing "alarmist reports".

The offending article, which was carried in the paper's 20 February edition, criticised President Mwai Kibaki, suggesting that he was unable to govern the country.

The journalists were also charged with failing to submit copies of the newspaper to the Registrar of books and newspapers; having no licence and publishing the newspaper without putting up the required one million-shilling (11,600 euros) bond.

Seven "Weekly Citizen" street sellers were also charged. Nearly 100 of them were arrested on 20 February as they distributed copies of the paper. Identified vendors Paul Kamau, Georges Kibandi, Nicholas Katua, Frederick Otieno and Bernard Odero are accused of using the premises at Junior Graphics printers on Cross Lane, Nairobi, without being accredited by Nairobi City Council. They were released after paying 50,000 shillings (580 euros) or after agreeing to bail of 100,000 shillings (1,160 euros). Printer Paul Kimani was also charged on 22 February and freed under the same bail conditions.

Journalist Johnstone Mativo, graphic designer Ken Teyie, receptionist Catherine Oyando, and distribution assistant Austin Alwaka, who were arrested in the police raid on the newspaper's offices on 20 February, were all released without charge the following day.

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