Reporters Without Borders today said it was "astounded" by the abuse of authority displayed by the wives of President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria in assailing and imprisoning journalists in separate incidents on 2 May in response to critical press reports.
"We are stunned that presidents’ wives went so far just to seek personal revenge," the press freedom organization said. "We therefore call on Lucy Kibaki to apologize to the cameraman she hit and we call on Stella Obasanjo to have the Midwest Herald’s publisher released from prison immediately, as such meddling harms the image of their countries."
Orobosa Omo-Ojo, the publisher of the Lagos-based Midwest Herald, was arrested on Stella Obasanjo’s orders when security forces led by Inspector Sunday Owolabi of the Ondo state police department burst into the newspaper’s office at 10:30 a.m. on 2 May and occupied it for an hour until Omo-Ojo was taken to Akure prison. His arrest was prompted by an article last week about her headlined "Greedy Stella."
President Obsanjo, who is also the current African Union chairman, meanwhile went to Dakar to attend a UNESCO summit on World Press Freedom Day.
In Nairobi, Lucy Kibaki went to the premises of the Nation Media Group, Kenya’s largest press group, shortly before midnight on 2 May with six bodyguards and Nairobi police chief Kingori Mwangi and spent five hours in the offices of the daily newspaper The Nation complaining about "unfair" reports last weekend. Uttering insults, she had all of the journalists’ cameras, notebooks and mobile phones confiscated and she swore that she would not leave until the articles’ authors were arrested.
She also leaped at Kenya Television Network cameraman Clifford Derrick, who had been filming the scene, slapped him and tried unsuccessfully to take his camera from him.
In that day’s issues, several newspapers including The Nation and The Standard had reported that Lucy Kibaki had tried to put a stop to a farewell party on the night of 29 April for Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s representative in Kenya, because it was making so much noise.
A report headlined "Shame of First Lady" in The Standard, a rival of The Nation, said that Lucy Kibaki, after failing to get the party stopped, went personally to the Muthaiga police station to file a complaint against Diop. The report described her as being "lightly attired" at the time.