Police summonses issued to Standard Group CEO Sam Shollei, investigative reporters John-Allan Namu and Mohamed Ali have been cancelled following uproar over infringement of media freedom.
A top State official told Capital FM News on condition of anonymity that a decision had been reached within high levels of government to cancel the police orders.
Capital FM News had earlier learnt that lawyers acting for the three had agreed to present them for questioning on Monday since Shollei is away.
The summonses were delivered to the Standard Group offices on Mombasa Road Thursday afternoon by detectives, a day after Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said he wanted them questioned over issues in their story that was “grossly misinforming and inciting.”
Earlier in the day, the civil society and journalists’ groups had slammed the directive saying it was an affront to media freedom.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights chairperson Anne Ngugi condemned the threats by the Police Chief saying,” journalists and the media have a right to inform the public and the public the right to receive information.”
Ngugi added, “Until these rights are protected the government will only be paying lip-service to human rights which they should rid themselves of.”
The Kenya Editors’ Guild also raised concern saying, “This is an affront on media freedom and an attempt to gag the free flow of information which is enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya.”
“We challenge the Inspector General of Police to prove his allegations of incitement and clarify why his officers are harassing journalists in the course of their duty,” their statement read.
“We remind the Kenya Police that it is the cardinal duty of media to access to information share it with their audiences. This is a duty the media has largely carried out professionally with integrity and a high sense of responsibility. As it stands the Media in Kenya is self regulating and there are clear sections of the law that address those aggrieved by media reportage.”
“There is a Complaints Commission within the Media Council of Kenya where the Inspector General or aggrieved parties can file their complaints for determination,” they advised.
On his part, the Law Society of Kenya Chairman Eric Mutua said the journalists only gave answers to the unanswered questions brought by the confusion seen between the security forces.
“The Inspector General seems to be the only stranger in Jerusalem. All and sundry know that the Westgate operation was bungled and the various statements issued by security forces were non- factual,” he added.
In a statement, Mutua added that the findings by the investigative journalists should be clarified and not seen as a chance to threaten the media.
“When persons charged with such responsibility fail to show leadership and provide answers the media and public will provide alternative answers. Whether right or wrong, these answers were a necessity,” explained Mutua.
He advised that instead of issuing threats to the media what should be happening is resignation of those who failed and formulation of an independent commission to probe the Westgate fiasco.
James Mwamu of the East Africa Law Society also disapproved of the actions of the Police boss, advising him to hand over the matter to the media council for investigation before arresting the said journalists.
“We would rather believe on what comes from the media than what comes from the police; we were told that some mattresses were burning only to discover it was a bomb explosion,” he said.
Tom Rhodes of the Committee to Protect Journalists added to the growing concern saying, “It appears we are entering a downward spiral in terms of media freedoms in Kenya following Kimaiyo’s summonses to John-Allan Namu and Mohamed Ali over their Westgate mall coverage.”
“Kenya has a statutory Media Council designed to handle media disputes.
“The Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo should follow his nation’s procedures and settle any concerns through the council, not threaten with incitement.”
“Kenya’s robust press should not be targeted simply for airing the truth. Instead, the Kenyan police should be investigating the real criminals at Westgate, not the messengers,” said Rhodes.
Kimaiyo had said “it is very clear that there is limit” to media freedom.
“We are looking within the law very closely for those individuals who in one way or another might have committed crimes… that soon they would be apprehended and appear before the court, and face the consequences of this,” he said.
However, Kenya’s military chief Julius Karangi on Tuesday insisted officers did not loot, and took drinks from the supermarket only “to quench their thirst”.
Explaining the other goods taken, Karangi called it “sanitisation to ensure their safety”.