Kenya police now threaten journalists over Westgate coverage

Inspector-General David Kimaiyo (right), flanked by CID Director Ndegwa Muhoro. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

In a bizarre twist, Kenya government has now trained its guns on the media coverage of the Westgate terror attack.

Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo on Wednesday announced that journalists will be arrested and prosecuted over their coverage of the Westgate rescue operation.

He accused the journalists of “provoking propaganda” and inciting Kenyans against the authorities with investigative stories which exposed command confusion during the operation which saw at least one police officer shot and killed by the Kenya Defence Forces.

Journalists, both local and international, have also reported the apparent looting of the shopping mall by the KDF. The military however told Parliament that the soldiers were carrying water in the shopping bags and not looted goods.

The Inspector-General’s announcement is the latest in a sustained assault on press freedom in Kenya in recent months, which has seen the tabling in Parliament of bills giving government control over media operations.

Mr Kimaiyo said investigative journalists from the privately-owned Kenya Television Network are among those to be arrested.

Relieved of command

He appeared to take umbrage at the insinuation that he was relieved of command during the operation against terrorists who massacred nearly 70 shoppers at the mall located in Westlands.

At the time, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that Mr Kimaiyo remained in charge of the operation.

However, from around 5pm on Saturday September 21 until the end of the siege four days later, the operation was controlled by the military. KDF does not take orders from the police.

Mr Kimaiyo’s decision to muzzle the press flies in the face of the constitution which prohibits the government from interfering with the media.

Mr Kimaiyo has not filed a complaint with the Media Council of Kenya, the normal procedure for dealing with cases where journalists are involved in unethical conduct.

At the press conference on Wednesday, Mr Kimaiyo said the journalists had “overstepped” press freedom apparently by reporting the command chaos and looting during the operation.

“You cannot provoke propaganda and incite Kenyans against the authorities. The two journalists will be apprehended,” explained Mr Kimaiyo.

In Parliament, Majority Leader Aden Duale has published a Bill which gives the cabinet secretary for communication immense powers over the Media Council, which regulates the media.

The cabinet secretary has, among others powers, the right to dissolve the current Media Council and then constitute the selection panel that will interview and nominate members to form part of the new council.

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