On November 3, 2015, Joseph Nkaissery, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for interior and national coordination, appeared before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee to answer questions about millions of dollars his ministry allegedly paid irregularly to suppliers, the bulk on the last day of the budget year.
Journalists from several Kenyan media outlets attended the session and published articles the following day. The fallout was swift. Nkaissery warned journalists who reported the proceedings they faced arrest if they failed to disclose their sources, and that leaking such information to the media could jeopardise national security. The minister either forgot or seemed to ignore the fact that the committee’s sessions were open, and journalists were present when members of parliament questioned him.
Soon after Nkaissery’s warning, police from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) attempted to summon journalists who wrote the stories for interrogation regarding their sources, but they did not comply. Days later, the police bundled the Daily Nation’s John Ngirachu, who was among those summoned, into an unmarked vehicle, and drove him to the DCI headquarters in Nairobi for interrogation. The police denied him access to a lawyer, but released him without charge after four hours.
The state-orchestrated intimidation of journalists after Nkaissery’s committee session is symptomatic of risks and challenges they have faced under President Uhuru Kenyatta, who took office in April 2013, and is seeking reelection in general elections scheduled for August 8, 2017. As the election nears, Kenyan government officials are increasingly scrutinising media reporting and the impact it has on public perceptions of governance, health and education services, security, land rights, state management of public funds and the ongoing lack of accountability for the 2007 post-elections violence.
Report by the Human Rights Watch
“Not Worth the Risk” – Threats to Free Expression Ahead of Kenya’s 2017 Elections1.88 MB