Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 09:48 GMT

Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Kenya

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Kenya, February 1997, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

President Daniel arap Moi's Kenya African National Union (KANU) government has escalated its war against the independent press, refusing to tolerate any criticism of government officials or its policies. Journalists routinely face intimidation, harassment, attacks, imprisonment without charge, fines, charges of seditious libel or defamation, and pressure to reveal their sources. The government rarely launches investigations following the frequent acts of violence against the press or media houses.

In January, after protests from the international community and foreign diplomats based in Nairobi, President Moi ordered proposed draft media bills shelved indefinitely. The proposed media regulations included licensing of local and foreign journalists, the establishment of a government-mandated code of press conduct, and the creation of a council to regulate media operations. Possession of the proposed media bills by Kenyan journalists was deemed a criminal offense to discourage the information from becoming public until after it had secretly been passed by Parliament. Kenyan authorities subsequently submitted written requests to foreign diplomats calling for recommendations of press laws that would be appropriate for Kenya.

The proposed legislation provided for a comprehensive licensing process for journalists, and the print and broadcast media. It would establish a press council for the purpose of registering and monitoring the conduct of journalists, including foreign correspondents based in Kenya. The council would have the authority to review news content on the basis of prescribed standards, and ban journalists and the news media.

With elections scheduled for 1997, and confrontations escalating between the government and the political opposition, the independent press expects to be the target of increased government harassment during the period leading up to the elections.

May 14
Njehu Gatabaki, Finance, IMPRISONED

Gatabaki, editor in chief of the independent monthly magazine Finance and a member of parliament, was arrested at his home in the Lavington district of Nairobi. He was taken to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), then to Parklands police station, where he made a statement denying police accusations that he was involved in the May 1995 murder of police superintendent Bernard Kahumbi. He was released without charge on May 22.

July 15
Waite Mwangi, East African Standard, HARASSED

The Nyeri District Criminal Investigation Department (CID), located 150 kilometers northeast of Nairobi, demanded that East African Standard reporter Mwangi reveal his sources for a July 14 story about criminals in downtown Nyeri. Mwangi refused to cooperate.

July 27
Journalists, Nation, ATTACKED
Journalists, East African Standard, ATTACKED

Several journalists from the newspapers Nation and East African Standard were assaulted by security guards at the British High Commission in Nairobi. The journalists were investigating claims by visa applicants that there were excessive delays in obtaining visas.

August 27
Fotoform Printers, ATTACKED

The production facilities of Fotoform Printers in Westlands, Nairobi, were firebombed. The gasoline used in the bombing was contained in two plastic cans that were placed near a gate leading to the basement, where the printing presses were located. No one was arrested or charged in the bombing. In a letter to President Daniel arap Moi, CPJ condemned the bombing as an act of intimidation against the press.

November 1
Peter Kamau, Nation, ATTACKED, HARASSED

Kamau, a correspondent for the Nation, was arrested when he sought clarification over remarks made by Vice President George Saitoti during a speech at a National Youth Development fund-raising event in Lodwar. On Saitoti's orders, security guards punched and kicked Kamau as they arrested him. Saitoti later apologized for the incident.

November 21

Using a seditious libel statute, the High Court in Nairobi ordered Finance magazine to discontinue publishing articles concerning Kuria Kanyingi, chairman of the Kenya African National Union for the Kiambu District. The order remains in effect until Jan. 22, 1997, when court proceedings begin against the magazine on charges of contempt. The ban was prompted by an article in the Oct. 15, 1996, issue of Finance, which claimed that "the self-imposed chairman of the ruling party in Kiambu District is behind and involved in criminal activities in the district." In a letter to President Daniel arap Moi, CPJ condemned the use of seditious libel statutes and called for the immediate revocation of the ban.

November 22
Nation Newspapers Ltd., LEGAL ACTION
Wangethi Mwangi, Nation Group, LEGAL ACTION
Emman Omari, Nation, LEGAL ACTION

Comptroller of State Houses Franklin Bett filed a lawsuit against publishing company Nation Newspapers Ltd.; Mwangi, managing editor of the Nation Group, a division of the company; and Omari, chief parliamentary reporter for the Nation, a daily published by the Nation Group. Bett brought the suit because of a Nov. 13 Nation article called "Kanu (Kenya African National Union Party) Faction Demands Poll," which contained what Bett claimed was a reference to him as a member of the Kanu faction.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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