Former Kenyan Prime Minister and now opposition CORD leader, Raila Odinga, last evening launched sharp criticism at Interior Cabinet Secretary Maj-Gen (Rtd) Joseph Nkaissery over the arrest of Daily Nation editor.
The Daily Nation’s parliamentary Editor, John Ngirachu, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon at Parliament in Nairobi for reporting on corruption in the procurement department of the Interior ministry.
The enraged Nkaissery said Ngirachu would only be released after revealing the source of the information he used to write his story.
Ngirachu was held at the DCI headquarters at Mazingira House, off Kiambu Road in Nairobi.
However, a social media campaign seeking Ngirachu’s release, #FreeNgirachu, was on Tuesday evening the top trending topic on Twitter.
Riala weighs in
In a statement Tuesday evening, Raila advised the government to respect the timeless tradition that journalists are duty bound to protect the sources of information they have as long as that information is of immense public interest and there was no way of obtaining it other than by relying on confidential sources.
“I believe that was the case in regard to security ministry spending. This is not the first time spending by internal security ministry is coming into sharp scrutiny.”
He assured Ngirachu that he [Raila] stood with him personally and the Opposition too.
“I assure him that his dreams for a free and open society are valid and legal and he must pursue them without any fear of fighting a lone battle. We will do all we can to secure his freedom.”
Raila demanded that the young man be freed immediately to pursue his career.
He said Kenya has to move forward and close the chapter of repression and opaqueness in the management of public affairs permanently.
“I appeal to my colleagues in government to stop entertaining the idea that Kenya can move backwards or stand still.”
“In the meantime, I have also instructed lawyers Senator James Orengo and Mr Paul Mwangi to immediately get in touch with the Nation Media Group and take up the young editor’s case for free and defend the rights and privileges of the media for the sake of Kenya.”
Media council condemns arrest
In a statement Tuesday, Haron Mwangi, PhD Chief Executive Officer and Secretary to the Council, decried cases of harassment and intimidation of journalists.
“As the body charged with ensuring the protection of the rights and privileges of journalists in the performance of their duties, the Council is particularly concerned with the increasing number of journalists facing threats, harassment and in extreme circumstances murdered in the course of duty in Kenya.”
Mwangi said some of the journalists have been attacked and beaten by security forces, arrested, threatened and summoned for questioning under unclear circumstances.
“These acts are an affront to the Freedom of the Media and Freedom of Expression as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya, trigger self-censorship in media and is contrary to international norms and standards.”
He called for Ngirachu’s unconditional release.
Late in the evening, Ngirachu was freed from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters after recording a statement in the presence of his two lawyers.