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Kenya27 September 2004

Armed gang ransacks two independent weeklies

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a violent attack on two alternative newspapers, the Weekly Citizen and The Independent, in Nairobi on 24 September by a gang of masked gunmen claiming to be police officers who ransacked their offices, confiscated material and threatened staff.

"We call on the Kenyan authorities to identify who carried out these raids, which have no place in a democracy," the organisation said. "It is especially serious if it is confirmed that they were police raids, and the government will have to punish those responsible and compensate the newspapers."

Computers, diskettes, scanners, printers and other office equipment were seized during the raids, which were carried out by about 10 men while about 10 others watched the entrances. Weekly Citizen marketing director Moses Musyoka said they men claimed to be police officers but did not show any police ID or warrants.

When Weekly Citizen editor Tom Alwaka arrived at his newspaper’s officers, the commando had already left. Alwaka was told at the central police station that the raid was carried out by administration police. But spokesmen for the police force and its criminal investigation department denied that any of their officers were involved.

Alwaka told reporters that last week he received anonymous calls asking if his newspaper intended to publish a story on the Ndung’u Land Commission Report, a confidential report submitted to the president about possible irregularities in land allocation. The report was to have been made public on 24 September.

He said the anonymous caller wanted to arrange a meeting in a Nairobi hotel and offered him 25,000 dollars if he would refrain from publishing the report. Alwaka said he had never had any story on that report.

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