Kenyan journalists camp out in newsroom


Three Kenyan journalists spent the night in their newsroom in fear of arrest, watching plainclothes policemen camped outside.

They said their lawyers would file court petitions seeking to ensure their freedom.

Their station, NTV, was one of three independently owned stations shut down by Kenyan authorities after they broadcast live coverage of an opposition ceremony symbolically “swearing in” opposition leader Raila Odinga.
“We were doing our job, we have the right to do this and if I was to do it again, I’d do it the same way,” NTV senior anchor and reporter Ken Mijungu told Reuters after an anxious night spent conferring with lawyers and wondering if police would appear with arrest warrants.

He and his colleagues, Larry Madowo and Linus Kaikai, were independently warned by security sources their arrest was imminent.

In the evening, when men they believed were plainclothes police appeared outside their office building, they were advised by station management to stay inside.

By morning, the men were still in their newsroom.
“Our head of security said he has reason to believe they have gone for reinforcements,” said Madowo (30) who was producing coverage on Tuesday before authorities took NTV off air.

In African states with entrenched rulers such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon, governments have asked telecommunications companies to block social media during elections and protests.

But the shutdown of TV stations in Kenya came as a shock to journalists used to operating freely.
“This is clearly a slide to dictatorship. It’s a return to a repressive period we had forgotten about,” said Madowo. “We are becoming another African country with these kinds of issues.”

Kaikai, chairman of the Kenya Editors’ Guild, said editors were warned by authorities they could be shut down if they covered the event.

The stations would stay off air indefinitely, government said, as it investigates the symbolic oath by Odinga, directly challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Interior Minister Fred Matiang‘i accused media organisations of facilitating the “illegal act”, which he said put the lives of thousands of Kenyans at risk.
“This is a gross abuse of the law and complete disregard for the constitution,” said Mijungu.

Police arrested Tom Kajwang, an opposition lawmaker who administered Odinga’s “oath”. He was expected to be charged with administering an unlawful oath, a security source told Reuters.