STATEMENT BY THE KENYA EDITORS GUILD ON THE ARREST OF NATION MEDIA GROUP JOURNALIST JOHN NGIRACHU
An old proverb aptly advised human kind over the ages that, “Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”
This evening, the Cabinet Secretary in charge of the Ministry of Interior Major General (retired) Joseph ole Nkaissery outdid himself in purported execution of the mandate of his Ministry. John Ngirachu, a Nation Media Group journalist on lawful duty in the National Assembly was arrested within the precincts of Parliament on orders of Nkaissery.
The cabinet secretary has evidently followed through his threat to target the media over a report on the Auditor General’s query on how Nkaissery Ministry spent some Ksh.3.8 Billion in a single day.
The Kenya Editors Guild and indeed the entire independent media fraternity is appalled by the arrest of Ngirachu and the bizarre demand by Nkaissery that the journalist ‘reveal the source of the story’. The query of the Auditor General on the Ksh.3.8 Billion Interior Ministry spending is a matter for which Mr. Nkaissery was questioned by the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament and effectively, Nkaissery is one of the sources of the story, and indeed a reliable one.
The demand for source of the story is therefore mere posturing by Nkaissery who has proceeded to threaten that Ngirachu will quote; “be fried if he does not reveal the sources of his story”. We are indeed disappointed with this unpolished language of an otherwise senior cabinet minister; phrases such as ‘frying’ an innocent journalist could at best find home back in 1980s when Nkaissery led an infamous military ‘security operation’ against potentially innocent villagers in West Pokot.
We have also taken note of a 4-page incoherent statement that preceded the arrest of Ngirachu. The statement is an attempt to build a case against not just the media but also a broader base of Kenyans that have dared question a wide range of issues particularly the runaway corruption in government.
The Nkaiserry statement has bizarrely suggested what it terms ‘a choreographed campaign to destroy the government’. The statement termed corruption and the media reporting of it as ‘an internationalized hysteria aimed at harming the Nation.’ Nkaissery also accuses quote “the media of castigating the government as irredeemably corrupt.” The statement then proceeds to warn that those making allegations of corruption will be held to account.
I am urging the media to publish the statement in full so that the public can appreciate the peculiar, even irrational thoughts contained in the 4-page statement.
If the statement is anything to go by, the arrest of journalist John Ngirachu is only the beginning of tougher times for the media and any other independent voices brave enough to raise questions on the corruption crisis that ails our country tonight.
We complete with an assurance, John Ngirachu will be free and back to work shortly.
CHAIRMAN, KENYA EDITORS GUILD
HARASSMENT OF JOURNALISTS
My attention has been drawn to the arrest of Parliamentary Editor for the Nation Media Group, Mr John Ngirachu. I have also learnt of the absurd explanation by Internal Security Cabinet Secretary Mr Joseph Nkaissery that Mr Ngirachu will be released when he reveals the source of the story he wrote on the Internal Security spending.
I want to express my solidarity with the family, friends and media fraternity over this unfortunate development. I also wish to advise 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.
I wish to assure Mr Ngirachu that I stand with him personally and the Opposition does 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.
I demand that the young man be freed immediately to pursue his career. 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.
The Rt. Hon Raila A. Odinga, EGH