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Kenya19 July 2002

Journalist on hunger strike for justice

Reporters Without Borders said today it was concerned about the health of Kenyan photo-journalist Wallace Gichere, who was taken unconscious to a Nairobi hospital on 15 July after being on hunger strike for eight days in a bid to win compensation for police brutality that left him paralysed.

"We will hold you responsible if anything happens to him," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Kenyan attorney-general (justice minister) Amos Wako. "It is you duty to provide justice and repair this grave error" by paying the due compensation immediately.

In 1991, Gichere, then chief photographer of the government-owned Kenya Times, was thrown out of a fourth-floor window by 15 policemen who broke into his flat and accused him of writing anti-government articles for foreign media and sending information to Amnesty International. He was also an active member of a pro-democracy group with links to a former presidential candidate.

The government accepted a recommendation by the Kenya Human Rights Commission to pay damages to him but did not do so. Wako said after a meeting with him that his demands for compensation were excessive.

Reporters Without Borders notes that on 22 June, investigative journalist and human rights activist Argwings Odera was forced to flee Kenya for South Africa after coming under heavy pressure.

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