30 - 01
By Lisa Vives
KENYAN MEDIA FACES JAIL OR WORSE FOR COVERING PRESIDENTIAL MASHUP
A ceremonial inauguration scheduled for this week will test the mettle of President Uhuru Kenyatta whose electoral victory last October now faces a new and possibly dangerous challenge by his rival, Raila Odinga.
The two men had faced off in two rounds of voting – the first round in August was nullified by the Kenyan Supreme Court for irregularities. The second round was upheld in Uhuru’s favor. Odinga, who boycotted the second round, was defeated definitively, many thought. In fact, he is moving forward this week with a swearing-in ceremony of his own, despite warnings of treason charges by the commander in chief.
A confident Odinga and his party, the National Super Alliance or NASA, declared in a press release this week: “(We wish) to inform supporters that the swearing-in of Raila Amolo Odinga and Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka as President and Deputy President respectively is on…”
“All plans are in place to ensure this event is conducted peacefully and successfully at Uhuru Park in Nairobi from 8 a.m. … We will accomplish our mission come hell or high water.”
Worryingly, the government has turned its frustration towards media, warning reporters to stay away from Uhuru Park. In a meeting with reporters and editors, the President threatened to shut down and revoke the licenses of any media house that would broadcast Odinga’s protest event.
Linus Kaikai, the Kenya Editors’ Guild president, expressed alarm over what he called a developing trend by the government to gag or threaten the media over coverage of the current political events in the country.
“Our country’s vibrant media is made up of competent professionals in journalists and editors that continue to make sound decisions on what constitutes news in the public interest,” he declared.
“We call on all media houses and journalists to carry on their work diligently and to report impartially on all matters of public interest as they have always done. The government should also ensure that journalists are neither harmed nor intimidated as they perform their work on Tuesday and thereafter.”
In closing, Kaikai urged the government “to respect the freedom of the media guaranteed in Article 34 of the Constitution and the right of the public to information (Article 35) and desist from outdated methods of repression and to also respect the Bill of Rights.” w/pix of Linus Kaikai