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Twenty-three IFEX members call on President Kibaki to end suppression of media freedom

(Media Institute/IFEX) - The following is a joint action by 23 IFEX members:

Hon. Mwai Kibaki
Republic of Kenya
State House
Fax: +254 20 210 150, +254 20 247 808, +254 20 337 340
E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]

Dear Hon. Mwai Kibaki,

Suppression of media freedom in Kenya

We the undersigned organisations engaged in promoting freedom of expression in the world are concerned about the sad turn of events in your country.

Kenya has been hailed as a beacon of hope for Africa's democratic transition. It is therefore regrettable that the dispute over the Presidential election results has sparked such ethnic animosity and bloodletting and plunged the country into unprecedented chaos.

As you negotiate for a peaceful settlement of this crisis, we wish to appeal to your government to lift the curbs imposed on independent media reporting of the events unfolding in your country.

On 30 December 2007, your Minister for Internal Security invoked Section 88 of the Communications Act to ban live Outside Broadcasting by radio and television. The law empowers the minister "on the declaration of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety and tranquility" to "take temporary possession of any telecommunication apparatus or any radio communication station or apparatus within Kenya".

While the action may have been motivated by a desire to calm emotions in the wake of the tension triggered by the disputed Presidential Election, the directive has had the ultimate effect of gagging the media and freedom of expression as guaranteed in Section 79 of the Kenya Constitution. The ban seeks to black out the expression of genuine grievances and muzzle the freedom of the press.

In a time of conflict, such as the one your country currently faces, it is critical that all channels of communication be kept open and that divergent views are heard to avoid fueling suspicion and rumours, which in turn protects minority rights. The media, which has become the casualty of your orders, is the principle avenue for the expression of such views. We therefore urge you to rescind this ban as we see no present danger to public safety or general security posed by a free media.

We have confidence in the Kenyan media, which is known for its robustness, to exercise professional judgment of what is fit or unfit to air during this crisis. The government should instead seek the intervention of industry bodies like the Kenya Editors Guild and the Media Owners Association to reach an amicable resolution between national security and the public interest, particularly in relation to freedom of information, which is necessary in a democratic society.

Your government's blanket ban on the media is a dictatorial attempt to skew the flow of information in your favour, which undermines the confidence of the international community in your leadership.

Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Jakarta
Arab Archives Institute (AAI), Amman
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo), Cairo
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Manama
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Toronto
Cartoonists Rights Network (CRN), Burke
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), Kathmandu
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Manila
Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA), Addis Ababa
Foro de Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA), Buenos Aires
Freedom House, New York
Free Media Movement (FMM), Colombo
Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Chisinau
Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Baku
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Brussels
Media Institute, Nairobi
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Windhoek
Mizzima News, New Delhi
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Lagos
Norwegian PEN, Oslo
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Karachi
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), Paris
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), Reston

Media Institute

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