Relations between the authorities and the press are still tense. While some cabinet ministers occasionally reiterate their attachment to press freedom, others do not hesitate to openly threaten certain newspapers. On 1 June, on the occasion of the 38th anniversary of the institution of Kenya’s first independent government, the state president himself, Daniel arap Moi, said that "journalists treat the Africans and their leaders like dirt".
The president of the Kenyan Union of Journalists (KUJ), said in August 2001 that foreign press correspondents write "deceitful lies that they publish as news". During a meeting with the head of state, KUJ leaders asked for exclusive authorisation to grant and refuse accreditation for foreign journalists based in Kenya.
In early November the media mobilised against a repressive press bill providing for an increase in the price of publication licenses, from 10,000 to one million shillings (150 to 15,000 euros), and a six-month jail sentence for failure to pay. The bill also stipulated that private sector radio stations and television channels would have to submit their programmes for approval before broadcasting them. Local human rights organisations saw this as a tool for censorship in the run-up to the 2002 presidential elections.
The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) is still the only local audio-visual medium to broadcast throughout the country. In some remote areas the inhabitants have no alternative to state-controlled television and radio.
Lastly, Kenya is one of the most developed countries in sub-Saharan Africa as far as the Internet is concerned. Several local newspapers have an on-line edition updated on a daily basis. The authorities promote this development while carefully monitoring use of the network. In late August and early September police searched two Nairobi cybercafés and arrested several foreign nationals accused of publishing documents classified as state secrets.
Three journalists jailed
One journalist jailed in 2000 was released during the year.
Freelance journalist Argwings Odera was arrested on 26 December 2000 by police in the Kisumu district in the western province of Nyanza. They intercepted him on the road and told him to get out of his vehicle. The reporter refused and the police opened fire on his car, injuring him in the eye and the shoulder. Argwings Odera was taken to a local police station and hit several times. He was accused of encouraging the local population, in one of his articles, to oppose the construction of a hydroelectric plant in the region. He was released in early January 2001 after paying 100,000 shillings (about 1,500 euros) in bail.
Asena Muyoma and David Matende, respectively managing editor and editor-in-chief of the Weekly Citizen, were arrested by police on 10 July 2001 and held in police custody in Nairobi. They were accused of publishing an article reporting the responsibility of a police superintendent and an assistant of the education minister in political unrest. The two journalists were charged with "publishing unverified and alarming information" before being released on
A journalist with the Weekly Citizen, Tom Alwaka, went to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on 21 September after receiving a summons. He was immediately detained in the Kenyatta police station and charged four days later for "stealing an official document". The weekly had published news that a para-state company had misappropriated public monies. Tom Alwaka was released on bail the same day.
Fifteen journalists arrested
After receiving a summons, Milton Omondi, correspondent for Kenya News Agency in the eastern town of Garissa, went to the police station on 21 April 2001. The journalist was questioned on the sources of an article he had written about smuggling in the area. He was released the same day but detained again three days later and released the following day. The journalist says he was threatened by the police.
Three journalists - Johann Wandetto from People Daily, Jackson Orina from Daily Nation and Abisai Amugune from East African Standard - were arrested by police on 5 May in Kitale, in western Kenya. They were accused of helping a suspect wanted by the police to escape, and were released two days later.
On 5 June police seized approximately 300 copies of Sharpener in the central Kenyan town of Nyeri. The managing editor of this regional magazine, Kinyua Mutahi, was arrested and held for a few hours, for no apparent reason. This was the second time is less than a week that the magazine was seized.
Nine journalists were arrested and detained by police for over five hours on 21 August, on their way to Mount Kenya where the government was busy developing the area with a view to building houses. They were in the company of activists from an environmentalist movement, Greenbelt. The journalists concerned were Cyrus Ombati of People Daily, Patrick Mahangani, Carol Kinuthia and Martin Telewa of Daily Nation, Peter Ngare and Kamau Kuria of East African Standard, two BBC reporters and a Reuters journalist.
On 13 November Nahashon Orenge, reporter with People Daily, was arrested by police in the western town of Gucha. The journalist had said that policemen had forced young recruits to pay money into a support fund. He was released the next day.
Seven journalists attacked
A reporter for People Daily was attacked by members of the Mungiki sect on 8 January 2001 in a Nairobi suburb. The assailants attacked the journalist’s driver and his vehicle. They accused the driver of being a police agent and started throwing stones at the car when the journalist used his mobile phone to inform his newspaper. Police dispersed the members of the sect.
Haroun Wandalo and Jacob Otieno, respectively managing editor of the Kisumu office and photographer with East African Standard, and David Ohito and John Mwendwa, respectively cameraman and journalist with the privately-owned channel Kenyan Television Network, were assaulted by the police on 10 February on their way to a meeting of the opposition movement Muungano wa Mageuzi. When police threw two tear gas grenades into their vehicle the driver lost control and swerved into a ditch. Haroun Wandalo sprained his knee and Jacob Otieno and David Ohito sustained back injuries. John Mwendwa managed to jump out of the car before the accident but he was chased by a policeman who threatened to shoot him.
A photographer with the privately-owned Daily Nation, Chris Omollo, was assaulted and insulted by policemen on 23 May while taking photos of a police raid on a bar. They hit him with the butt of a gun and despite orders from their superior to stop, about 20 policemen carried on hitting and insulting him. Chris Omollo had his shoulder dislocated, his camera damaged and his money stolen. His driver George Munywoki was also hit by the police. The journalist lodged a complaint at Langata police station in Nairobi.
Jackson Orina, from the press group Nation, was assaulted on 28 June by young supporters of the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU), during a meeting in the western town of Kitale. After the meeting a party leader caused a scramble when he gave money to young supporters. The photographer was taking photos of the scene when party militants turned on him and hit him. They also destroyed his camera. The journalist, who was bleeding profusely, was taken to the Kitale hospital.
Pressure and obstruction
On 25 April 2001 police closed down the radio station Citizen FM and the television channel Citizen TV. Samuel Kamau Macharia, the owner of these media, was arrested on the same day but released a few hours later after paying bail of 500,000 shillings (about 7,500 euros). The journalists who covered the arrest were in turn also arrested by the police and held for a short while in the Citizen group’s offices. The police officers involved were accompanied by officials from the CCK, the Kenyan communications commission who claimed that the two media had failed to comply with the 1998 communication law. Mr. Macharia was charged for "setting up a radio station without a license" and "obstructing police during a search" in the radio station’s offices. Citizen FM had already been closed for the same reasons in 2000 but the high court had authorised it to carry on broadcasting until the appeal court ruling. The next day the government explained that Mr. Macharia had installed a transmitter without the required authorisation. Police officers were summoned to court in May to account for the search in the Citizen FM offices. On 20 August the judge, Alnashir Visram, decided to refuse Mr. Macharia permission to broadcast. According to him, the confiscation of his equipment was legal.
Police searched the offices of the privately-owned People Daily on 19 May. They were looking for Mukalo Kwayera and Peter Leftie, two journalists who had co-signed an article the previous day, claiming that the state had intervened to put an end to the quarrel about closure of hotels owned by an opposition leader. The two journalists were absent but were summoned to the Nairobi criminal investigation department. According to the journalists’ lawyers, this summons was illegal and "an abuse of power". The two men preferred to go into hiding until the matter had been settled.
On the same day Nairobi police seized an unknown number of newspapers from news stands in the city. They arrested several vendors who were allegedly operating without licenses. All of the vendors were released two days later. The leader of the Kenyan newspaper vendor’s association reported that the copies were seized without any explanation.
In June the state prosecutor, Amos Wako, announced that 19 managing editors who had "scandalised the public and broken the law" were to be prosecuted. According to him, these publications had never been approved by the authorities and were therefore illegal.
The Kisumu high court in western Kenya sentenced Tom Alwaka, of Weekly Citizen, on 4 June to six months’ imprisonment for "contempt of court". The weekly had carried on publishing articles about a court case, despite a high court ruling to the contrary. Tom Alwaka went underground and a warrant was served for his arrest.
Vincent Agoya, reporter for People Daily specialised in criminal affairs, went underground on 20 June. He had received a summons from the police following the publication of an article accusing an officer of "misuse of company property".
On 4 September a Nairobi court confirmed the order served on Daily Nation two weeks earlier, banning it from publishing the book Rogue Ambassador in serial form. In this book by a former diplomat stationed in Kenya, President Daniel arap Moi and his cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott were implicated in the death of former minister Robert Ouko.
On the same day six journalists were prevented from entering King’ong’o jail in the town of Nyeri in central Kenya. They wanted to cover the visit of a judge to the only survivor of a shootout in September 2000 during an attempted escape by prisoners sentenced to death. The prison guards said they were obeying orders from "above".
The Daily Nation and Taifa were sentenced on 7 September to pay 10 million shillings (about 150,000 euros) to Judge Patrick Machira. The judge had filed a complaint for "malicious libel" following the publication of articles and photos about an altercation in which he had been involved five years earlier.
CID agents prevented Geoffrey Irungu, financial journalist for People Daily, from boarding a plane for Mombassa on 13 September. He was to attend the annual congress of Kenya Airways.
On the same day Gacheru Kamau, correspondent for People Daily in Nakuru, north-west of the capital, went to the police station after receiving a summons. The journalist was charged for publishing an article on altercations in the local branch of Kanu. He was allowed to leave after paying bail of 50,000 shillings (about 750 euros).
Late in November two journalists were sentenced to pay ten and 20 million shillings (about 150,000 and 300,000 euros) respectively in damages to two law firms in libel suits. The KUJ protested against the exorbitant amounts of these fines. "In a depressed economy, these are economically disastrous sentences for the newspapers", the organisation said in a communiqué