The year began well. Citizen FM, the radio station of businessman Samuel Macharia, came back on the air at the end of January 2002 after being shut down on 24 April 2001 by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) because of an alleged problem with its licence. In February, the government rescinded a planned 40 per cent increase in the tax on newsprint, a move welcomed by the Kenyan Union of Journalists (KUJ) which said thousands of jobs would have been lost if it had gone ahead.
The situation deteriorated in subsequent months. Although attorney general Amos Wako had agreed in February to shelve a draft press law criticised by journalists, parliament adopted draconian new legislation on 8 May that increased the licence fee for a newspaper publisher one hundred-fold, thereby threatening the survival of small, under-funded newspapers.
In the approach to the 27 December general election, the state-owned news media lavished praise on Uhuru Kenyatta, presidential candidate of the ruling Kenyan African National Union (KANU) and President Daniel arap Moi’s heir apparent. As early as August, KANU general secretary Raila Odinga voiced concern about the blatantly partisan reporting coming from the state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and called for even-handed coverage of all the candidates. A number of parliamentarians a few days later accused President Moi of using the KBC to promote Kenyatta’s campaign at the expense of other candidates from the ruling party and the opposition. In September, an alliance of Anglican and Catholic churches also criticised the KBC’s coverage. The electoral commission took matters in hand on 12 September, threatening the KBC with a lawsuit if it did not restore some balance to its election coverage.
The presidential election was won by Mwai Kibaki of the opposition National Rainbow Coalition, who was sworn in on 30 December, ending 24 years of rule by President Moi.
Four journalists imprisoned
At least one journalist was in prison at the end of 2002.
Christopher Mwoki Kyandi, editor of the tabloid magazine The Truth, was sentenced to nine months in prison on 24 July 2002 for publishing false information, and began serving his sentence immediately. He had reported at the start of July that a couple had remained glued together after having sex. The story caused quite a stir in Nairobi and many people rushed to where the couple was supposed to be. Kyandi pleaded guilty at his trial on 11 July, admitting that it was just a rumour.
Three other journalists were imprisoned and released in 2002.
Njehu Gatabaki, editor of the magazine Finance and a member of the national assembly, was sentenced to six months in prison on 9 August for publishing "false and alarming" news in a December 1997 article accusing President Moi of having instigated the clashes that year between members of Moi’s ethnic group, the Kalenjin, and the Kikuyu community in which many Kikuyu were killed. The judge said the report was liable to have caused alarm and unrest. President Moi pardoned Gatabaki on 16 August.
Journalists Safani Asena Muyoma and Andrew David Matende of the Kenyan Monitor Weekly were each sentenced to a fine of 55,000 shillings (about 750 euros) or 18 months in prison on 16 August after pleading guilty to giving an "alarming" report about a government minister conspiring to eliminate his rivals. The two journalists were imprisoned in Nairobi until they paid their fines in early September. Shortly thereafter, Matende was again detained in a police station for a week, until he was released on bail.
Four journalists arrested
Mukalo wa Kwayera, a reporter with The People Daily, was arrested in the street and taken to the offices of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on 15 March 2002 after leaving a court where he had been accused of publishing information coming from the armed forces. He was freed a few hours later.
Jared Obuya, a journalist with The People Daily and the local correspondent of Reporters Without Borders was arrested with two other men by police from the Jogoo Road police station on 6 April. All three were released without any explanation after seven hours, and after paying 1,500 shillings (about 22 euros).
Two South African journalists, freelancer Beauregard Tromp and Mujahid Safodien, a photographer with the Star, were briefly detained by police in the coastal city of Mombasa on 30 November and asked about the reasons for their presence in Kenya. Safodien was manhandled when he tried to take photographs of his colleague being detained. This took place a few days after two attacks against Israeli citizens.
Fifteen journalists physically attacked
Jeremiah Ratunaka Ole Kikua, a local government official in a Nairobi district, physically attacked two press photographers - Robert Gicheru of the East African Standard and Kaniaru Ndirangu of the Kenya Times - as they tried to take pictures of him when he appeared before a court on charges of`corruption. Police went to help the official and threatened to hit the photographers if they tried to take more pictures.
Young activists with the National Development Party (NDP), an ally of the ruling party, assaulted Daily Nation reporter Odhiambo Orlale on 15 March, accusing him of criticising their party in his reporting. Orlale sustaining bruising to the back and head. Party officials quickly apologised to him.
Young supporters of the ruling party’s presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta attacked Nation Television cameraman Moses Baya at Mombasa airport on 3 November as he getting ready to shoot the Kenyatta’s arrival.
Six journalists with the Nation, East African Standard and Kenya News Agency were physically attacked on 12 November by the bodyguards of a former parliamentarian, who accused them of negative reporting about their employer.
Bodyguards of opposition presidential candidate Mwai Kibaki attacked news photographers Felix Masi of the East African Standard and John Muchene of The People Daily on 3 December when they tried to take photographs of Kibaki being treated in a Nairobi hospital after an accident.
Evans Akenga of the Kenya News Agency, Rocken Asinza of the East African Standard and Kabatasi Asula of Newsweek were attacked on 31 December by supporters of former Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi who accused them of backing the newly-installed President Kibaki.
Four journalists threatened
The commissioner of North Eastern province, Mohamud Saleh, threatened The Nation’s correspondent in the eastern city of Garissa, David Ochami, after he quoted Saleh as saying previous provincial administrators had turned a blind eye to crime in order to benefit from it. Ochami fled to Nairobi to escape arrest while Saleh approached other journalists in a vain attempt to get them to report the opposite of what Ochami wrote. He also asked the state-owned Kenya News Agency not to work with Ochami and ordered his staff and the mayor of Garissa not to let Garissa ever work in the province again.
Evans Nyakundi of the East African Standard, Francis Nyaru of The People Daily and Henry Nyarora of the Nation were threatened on 24 August by ruling party officials in the western Nyamira region who were dissatisfied with their coverage of Uhuru Kenyatta’s election campaign.
Pressure and obstruction
On 24 February 2002, the police chief in the southern city of Taveta ejected a news photographer from his police station and ordered other journalists with the Nation to leave after one of them recorded an argument between a police officer and two parliamentarians about the breaking-up of an opposition meeting by police.
The People Daily and its former editor in George Mbugguss were sentenced on 22 March to pay 20 million shillings (about 300,000 euros) to minister of trade and industry Nicholas Biwott for having allegedly libelled him in a March 1999 report claiming that Biwott was implicated in irregularities in the bidding for the construction of a hydroelectric dam, won by a French firm.
Fearing for his safety, the East African Standard’s correspondent in Garissa, Victor Obure, went into hiding at the end of April because he had heard that members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) were after him on account of a report that police had extorted money from residents of Garissa during a search for clandestine immigrants.
The national assembly adopted a draconian amendment to the Books and Newspapers Act proposed by attorney general Amos Wako on 8 May. It increased the licence fee for a newspaper publisher from 10,000 to 1 million shillings (from 150 to 15,000 euros) and stipulated that those who failed to pay could be sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 1 million shillings. It further stipulated that all those who sold or distributed unlicensed newspapers would also be prosecuted. In the hope that it would put an end to "irresponsible journalism," President Moi promulgated the law on 14 May.
On 5 June, the high court banned the sale of the 3-9 June edition of the weekly Citizen until the end of the hearing of a libel suit filed by businessman Sunil Behal.
Kenya Times photographer Wallace Gichere began a hunger strike on 7 July because he has never been compensated for the injuries he sustained when police threw him from a window in 1991, leaving him paralysed. He was taken unconscious to a hospital on 15 July. President Moi had agreed to compensate him in 2000 as police admit they threw him from the window because of articles he wrote for the foreign press, information he gave to Amnesty International and his links with pro-democracy groups. But no payment was ever made. Gichere ended his hunger strike in mid-July and negotiations began with the justice minister about the amount he should get.
Accredited journalists were told on 6 August that they would no longer have free access to the national assembly because parliamentarians were being harassed and security measures were being violated. Journalists are now restricted to a part of the assembly building little used by the parliamentarians. Earlier in the year, the assembly’s spokesperson had told journalists they could go about their business without restriction as long as they were accredited.
The state-owned radio and TV broadcaster KBC refused on 23 December to run the election campaign spots of opposition presidential candidate Mwai Kibaki. The KBC management said it had received instructions to this effect from the office of the president.