Ameriques Asie Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Kenya7 March 2007

Tabloid editor jailed for a year because unable to pay libel damages ordered by court

Reporters Without Borders condemned the one-year prison sentence imposed yesterday on Mburu Muchoki, the editor of the tabloid weekly The Independent, for libelling the justice minister and called on the government to amend the laws so that judges in future can pass fairer sentences for press offences.

“Jailing a journalist for allegedly defaming a government minister is unfair and disproportionate, and does not redress the offence,” the press freedom organisation said. “The severity of the sentence in this case adds to the sense of injustice. To deal with this problem, the government must set about amending its defamation law and in the meantime should release Muchoki.”

Muchoki, whose newspaper is known for its sensationalist coverage, was convicted of libelling justice and constitutional affairs minister Martha Karua in a 2004 story headlined “Karua’s father in abortion scandal.” The Nairobi court ordered him to pay 500,000 shillings (5,500 euros) in damages or go to prison for one year.

His lawyer, Nelson Oundu, claimed that the outcome of the trial was influenced by the fact that the presiding judge, Teresia Ngugi, is a close friend of the justice minister. Oundi has decided to appeal, but in the meantime Muchoki has been incarcerated in a prison in Nairobi’s industrial zone because he is unable to pay the 500,000 shillings.

In this country
2 February - Kenya
Freelance journalist murdered in southwest
2 January - Kenya
President deals major blow to press freedom
4 December - Kenya
Parliament close to adopting draconian media bill
10 October - Kenya
Ex-journalist finally freed on bail
17 March - Kenya
Journalists mistreated by soldiers operating against militia in Mount Elgon region

in the annual report
Kenya - Annual Report 2007
Kenya - Annual report 2006

Africa press releases
3 June - Somalia
Alarm at TV station director’s abduction near Mogadishu
27 May - Gabon
Government imposes news blackout on President Bongo’s health
26 May - Somalia
Radio reporter shot by militia dies of injuries, fourth journalist to be killed this year

africa archives

18 March 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo
“Bukavu, murder city”: investigation report into murders of journalists in the capital of Sud-Kivu
21 May 2008 - Eritrea
Naizghi Kiflu, the dictatorship’s eminence grise
6 March 2008 - Kenya
"How far to go ?" Kenya’s media caught in the turmoil of a failed election

Sign the petitions
Sign the petition for the release of ten Eritrean journalists