Media groups criticise arrest of journalists

Kenya :Three media organisations have strongly condemned the mistreatment of journalists by security forces during Friday's Jamhuri Day celebrations.

The Media Owners Association, Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and Kenya
Editors Guild (KEG) have expressed their disapproval and dismay at the
manner in which journalists were manhandled.

They said the incident confirmed dark times ahead if the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2008, is passed.

The media representatives vowed to continue with their bid to have the Bill rejected.

We will not relent in our commitment to defend the independence and
freedom of the media and rights of Kenyans to know the truth, said MCK
chairman Wachira Waruru.

Were peaceful

Media Owners chairman Linus Gitahi defended the arrested journalists, saying they had not broken any law.

It is true that they were wearing T-shirts … but they were peaceful.
There is no reason why a democratic government should arrest them,
said Mr Gitahi.

He urged the authorities to release them unconditionally and took the
opportunity to renew calls to the President not to sign the Bill.

What happened at Nyayo Stadium is just a small pointer of what could
happen to journalists if the law is put in place, said Mr Gitahi.

He clarified that as media owners they were not against regulation, but rather control.

He said there already existed structures, such as the MCK, to oversee regulation of the media.

KEG chairman Macharia Gaitho said the arrest of people engaged in
peaceful protests confirmed a dangerous slide towards dictatorship.

Evade taxation

Passage of the anti-media Bill at a time when Parliamentarians are
resisting public pressure to pay their taxes was not incidental, said
Mr Gaitho.

The media has played a critical role in giving voice to outraged
citizens who cannot understand why they have to shoulder heavy tax
burdens while their elected representatives evade taxation on
excessively generous pay packages, he added.

Nation journalist-cum-comedian Walter Mong'are, popularly known as
Nyambane, was arrested as he attempted to present the President with a
petition against MPs' refusal to pay taxes and the controversial
Communications Bill. Radio presenter Caroline Mutoko was also among
those caught up in the scuffle with security men.


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