Attempts to silence Kenya’s Media

Paul Ilado, a journalist with the Nairobi Star, has gone into hiding following death threats apparently sent by a shadowy Kikuyu sect known as Mungiki.

Ilada complained that he had been receiving death threats by sms following his exclusive reports on the governments attempt to intimidate a leading human rights activist and the chairman of Kenya’s own Human Rights Commission, Maina Kiai. According to ILEX Ilado had been placed on a Mungiki hit list.

The latest text to be sent to Paul Ilado threatens to cut his head off.

‘Mr Paul Ilado, we have known you for long. We want to let you know that if you don’t stop publishing stories of people who have betrayed us like Githongo, Kiai and Wainaina, we will cut off your head and bring it to Kiss FM.’

Other journalists had also been targeted earlier as traitors

an email purporting to be from Mungiki, targeted Nation’s group managing editor Joseph Odindo, KTN’s managing editor Linus Kaikai, and Mr Kipkoech Tanui of The Standard.

But yesterday, Kenya Union of Journalists secretary-general Eric Orina defended the media and declared: “We will not be cowed. We are trying to protect ourselves in order to perform our duties. If the country burns we will burn with it.”

Another threat was sent to Nairobi Star’s political editor Paul Ilado, who has since recorded a statement with police.

Besides Mr Odindo, Nation journalists who have been threatened are Mr Macharia Gaitho, Mr Robert Nagila, Mr Muchemi Wachira, Mr Gakiha Weru and Ms Julie Gichuru.

At The Standard, threats have been sent to columnist Njeri Kabeberi and writers Gakuu Mathenge and Peter Kimani.

UPDATE: More from Reporters sans Frontieres

Leading journalists threatened with same fate as murdered opposition MP

Reporters Without Borders urges the Kenyan authorities to use all necessary means to quickly identify and punish those responsible for the death threats sent to leading journalists in Nairobi yesterday, hours after an opposition Orange Democratic Movement parliamentarian was murdered.

“These threats must be taken seriously because the killers have already followed through on their threats once with an opposition legislator,” the press freedom organisation said. “Kenya’s journalists have behaved very responsibly since the start of the unrest and we will not stand for their being treated like this. We express our solidarity with those who have been threatened and their fellow journalists.”

At least five journalists received email threats yesterday, after the previous night’s murder of ODM parliamentarian Melitus Mugabe Were. Linus Kaikai, managing editor of TV station KTN, Kipkoech Tanui, managing editor of The Standard newspaper, Joseph Odindo, managing editor of the Nation Media Group, Robert Nagila, a journalist with NTV, and Paul Ilado, a journalist radio Kiss FM and political news editor of the Nairobi Star newspaper, all got the same message accusing them of helping to plunge Kenya into violence.

Claiming to come from the Mungiki, an underground Kikuyu sect feared for its especially barbaric murders, the message said : “Today we invaded Woodley Estate. You are going to see what happens to you.” Were was shot outside his home in the Nairobi neighbourhood of Woodley Estate. The journalists reported the threats to police headquarters in Nairobi.

Ilado previously got anonymous threatening phone calls on 25 January after writing an article for the Nairobi Star about 10 NGO leaders forced to live in hiding for fear of reprisals. After turning off his mobile phone, he continued for several days to get threatening messages saying he would be “beheaded” and giving details about his home and car.


1 Response to “Attempts to silence Kenya’s Media”

  1. 1 Nderi January 31, 2008 at 6:53 am

    First of all, i’d like to state my position and say that it is a sad affair what we have degenerated into.
    My take on this is that 1991,92,93 violence was much worse but because of limited media coverage, the country held together.
    Journalists should also know that they do not live in a vacuum. When sections of the media applauded the idea of mass action and the idea that courts could not be trusted, then they more or less encouraged lawlessness, or better still, extra-judicial solving of grievances.
    The Law is the only institution that holds a nation together, and especially Kenya. The idea being, who, if not the courts, will arbitrate? Lawlessness is lawlessness. Whether the idea seems justified or not. All lawlessness should be discouraged, a lesson Socrates taught the west so ell in ‘The Republic’ and when he was sentenced to death. The court ruled that he take hemlock.The Greek authorities, his very persecutors, encouraged him to disappear but he refused saying the law is the law. Breaking the law is not an option. He argued, ‘it is not moral for an individual to challenge a law when it is against the individual such that if society accepts that, then there is no law because no law will ever be right.
    I think the 2 lessons we learn is:
    1. Let us be pragmatic,let us report in a manner that will sustain Kenya. Blind following of ideals never helped anybody.
    2. Let us encourage the rule and respect for the law. As Kenya, there is absolutely nothing else that binds us together, NOTHING! We are not a nation! Ignoring the laid down rules of resolution of grievances is taking short cuts. It is in courts where Justice has a chance. In the streets, justice is for the mighty.
    Again I’m saddened by the situation the journalists face and hopefully this will be resolved and the perpetrators brought to book.

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