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Kenya14 August 2002

Magazine editor sentenced to six months in prison

Reporters Without Borders today protested against the six-month prison sentence imposed on 9 August on journalist and Member of Parliament Njehu Gatabaki, editor of the magazine Finance. He was convicted of publishing a "false and alarming report" in December 1997 that accused President Daniel Arap Moi of having instigated ethnic bloodshed in Molo shortly before the1992 elections in which some 1,500 people died.

"This journalist has been the target of veritable harassment by the President, and his imprisonment, soon after the adoption of a new law on the press, bodes ill for the future of press freedom in Kenya", Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to President Moi calling for Gatabaki’s immediate release and the withdrawal of all the charges against him.

The 1997 article, entitled "Moi ordered Molo massacre", alleged that President Moi gave the orders for members of his own ethnic group, the Kalenjin, to attack members of the Kikuyu community in the Molo area resulting in clashes in which many Kikuyu died. The court found the article liable to alarm the population and threaten civil peace. The judge said she was imposing an exemplary sentence because its was Gatabaki’s job, as an MP, to make the laws, not break them.

Gatabaki, who stands by the article, has 14 days to appeal. Nonetheless, he has already been jailed in the Kamiti high security prison. He was originally detained on 4 December 1997 but was released on bail pending trial, originally scheduled for February 1998. The sluggishness of the Kenyan judicial system seem to have been responsible for the trial delays. The magazine Finance is one of the few forums of expression for opposition politicians in Kenya.



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