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IPI, WAN condemn raid on printing house, radio station closure, journalists' arrests

(IPI/WAN/ IFEX) - The following is a 6 March 2006 joint IPI/WAN/Distripress letter to Kenyan authorities:

H.E. Mwai Kibaki
President of Kenya
P.O Box 30510,
Nairobi, Kenya
Fax: +254-2-250264

H.E. Mutahi Kagwe
The Minister, Information and Communication
P.O. Box 30027
Nairobi, Kenya
Fax: +254-2-318045

Vienna, 6 March 2006

Your Excellencies,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), and Distripress, three organisations representing thousands of media professionals all over the world, condemn the armed police raid on the printing house of The Standard daily, the closure of its sister station the Kenya Television Network (KTN) and the arrest of three journalists.

According to reports, in the early hours of 2 March heavily armed police in Nairobi raided the building housing KTN in central Nairobi and forced it off-air. At around the same time, another raid was carried out on the printing house of The Standard, the country's second largest selling daily, where police seized and burnt thousands of copies of the 2 March issue, disabled the printing press and confiscated equipment, including computers.

The raid was carried out by the "Kanga group," an elite squad formed by the Director of criminal investigations, Joseph Kamau, to fight serious crime such as car-jackings, bank robberies and murders.

Three Standard journalists - editor Chaacha Mwita and reporters Ayub Savula and Dennis Onyango - were arrested before the raids and have since been charged with publishing alarming statements and released on bail. Two other journalists reportedly face the threat of arrest.

It is thought the raid was prompted by a story that recently appeared in the newspaper claiming that President Kibaki had secretly met with one of Kenya's opposition leaders. The police action came two days after the media were warned against "abusing" press freedom.

We strongly believe that the deployment of such a group to harass and intimidate the media is a gross abuse of power that threatens the very democratic foundations of your country.

We respectfully call on you to ensure that, in the future, such military-style raids on media organisations are strictly prohibited, and encourage you to hold an independent public inquiry into how the original decision was made.

We respectfully call on you to take all necessary steps to ensure that the charges against Mr. Mwita, Mr. Savula and Mr. Onyango are immediately dropped and that all harassment of The Standard and KTN is halted.

We respectfully remind you that the prosecution of The Standard journalists and the raids on the newspaper and TV station constitute a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers."

These acts of intimidation are unprecedented in the history of the media in independent Kenya and we urge you to do everything possible to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of freedom of expression.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Johann P. Fritz
Director, International Press Institute (IPI), Vienna

Timothy Balding
Chief Executive Officer, World Association of Newspapers (WAN), Paris

John Kayser
President, Distripress, Zurich

Copy to:
The Standard Limited
P.O Box 30080
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel. +254 20 322 2111
E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]

International Press Institute
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

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