President should protect Kenya from vile officials

The unprovoked verbal attack by Moses Kuria, the Cabinet Secretary for Investments, Trade and Industrialisation, on Nation Media Group (NMG) was not only undignified for a state officer of his calibre but an assault on press freedom, a cornerstone of democracy.

In his unrestrained tirade using language most foul, he also directed government agencies not to advertise with NMG, essentially declaring a commercial war on the media house. He then insulted, on his official Twitter handle, NMG staff and the principal shareholder, His Highness the Aga Khan, who has invested immensely in developing Kenya and Africa.

Mr Kuria’s insults seems to have been triggered by publication by the Sunday Nation of an exposé detailing taxpayer losses from a dubious duty-free edible oils import scheme by the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) in his ministry.

But that was not the first time he was pouring vitriol against NMG and the media in general. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, he urged the public to shun buying newspapers as a way of keeping the virus at bay. And as Gatundu South MP, he used an expletive on an NTV journalist in a live broadcast.

Kuria’s habitual use of foul and crude language in public is not only shocking but also primitive and inexcusable in the eyes of level-headed Kenyans, who expect an official of his stature to conduct themselves with decorum. Besides tainting the otherwise good image of the country, his behaviour constitutes a serious violation of Chapter Four of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, particularly the freedom of the press. Such attacks have been sustained during the Kenya Kwanza reign.

No government should weaponise taxpayers’ funds to punish media for playing its constitutional public watchdog role.

If, indeed, he is aggrieved by media reports, Mr Kuria has the option of seeking redress through established mechanisms, including the courts. And if his pronouncements do not represent government policy, they ought to attract action by the appointing authority, President William Ruto, who has stated his commitment to the rule of law.