Note #9177 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
06141 March 2, 2006
Kenyan raid on media properties condemned by church, civic leaders
3 journalists arrested and held on charges of publishing 'rumors'
by Fredrick Nzwili Ecumenical News International
NAIROBI, Kenya - Church leaders and civil groups in Kenya have condemned a raid on the Standard Group of newspapers and its television station, the Kenya Television Network (KTN), by masked police bearing Kalashnikov assault rifles.
"I think they (government officials) have gone too far. This wasn't necessary," the Rev. Wellington Sanga, conference secretary of the Methodist Church of Kenya, told Ecumenical News International on March 2. "What are coming out are blunders, one after another."
The raid came at a time when Kenyan officials and former officials are caught up in a massive corruption scandal. Newspaper employees said no search warrant was presented by the police when they arrived.
The raid on the country's oldest newspaper offices began about 1 a.m. on March 2. Police dismantled computers and printing presses and allegedly burned thousands of copies of the newspaper ready for dispatch, in a type of operation not seen since the early 1980s, when the Kenyan government controlled and suppressed the media.
Police denied burning any newspapers. Internal Security Minister John Michuk said the raid was carried out for reasons of state security. The police issued a statement saying that the purpose of the raid was "to collect evidence of an intended act whose perpetuation would have posed a major threat to national unity." The police also denied that any newspapers had been burned.
KTN was back on the air by 2 p.m.; the Standard newspaper published a special edition.
However, three senior journalists employed by the Standard Group were arrested and charged with having published "rumors" in a story in the Saturday Standard. The story said President Mwai Kibaki had held a secret meeting with sacked minister Kalonzo Musyoka; both Kibaki and Musyoka said no such meeting took place and the story was fabricated.
"We urge the government to protect our freedom. In particular, we ask the government to review its position with regard to journalists currently in custody," said the Rev. Mutava Musyimi, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya.
Musyimi added, in an address to a Nairobi group launching an anti-corruption campaign, "We need to accept the caution that freedom must be exercised responsibly and with restraint."
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