Kenya Union of Journalists criticises police after arrest of Standard reporter

Standard Group journalist David Odongo. Mr Odongo was arrested by police on April 15, 2016 over a land dispute sidebar story that ran in the April 8 issue of The Nairobian weekly newspaper. He was questioned and released from police custody on April 16, 2016. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Mr Oduor said sending journalists to police cells not only contravenes section 34 of the Constitution but also introduces criminal libel
  • The Standard reporter has accused the Nairobi-based businessman of using Kanu-era tactics to intimidate him and challenged him to seek redress in court.
  • Mr Odongo was detained on Friday shortly after he took himself to the Embakasi Police Station to wait for a caller who had identified himself as a DCI officer.

The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) has hit out at the police for the Friday arrest and confinement of Standard Group reporter over a land dispute story.

The reporter, David Odongo, was arrested on Friday evening over a story that ran on the April 8 issue of The Nairobian newspaper about a land dispute between a businessman and a relative.

Mr Odongo’s story was a sidebar — a box or narrow area on a newspaper or magazine page that contains a short news story or extra information relating to a longer main story — to a report done by his colleague Pkemoi Ng’enoh.

KUJ secretary-general Erick Oduor said Mr Odongo’s arrest was a clear indication that the police are still open to manipulation.

“Police have once again demonstrated that they are not independent. Police should invoke Defamation Act and Section 34 of the Constitution that stipulate legal process for any aggrieved persons in regard to journalists’ work to seek redress,” said Oduor.

Mr Oduor said sending journalists to police cells not only contravenes Section 34 of the Constitution but also introduces criminal libel.

The Standard reporter has accused the Nairobi-based businessman of using Kanu-era tactics to intimidate him and challenged him to seek redress in court if the story is inaccurate.

“If he has a case against me or against my colleague Pkemoi Ng’enoh, the best thing to do is go to court, (he can start) a defamation case against us. But making it look like a criminal matter is not good,” said Odongo.

Mr Odongo was detained on Friday shortly after he took himself to the Embakasi Police Station to wait for a caller who had identified himself as a DCI officer.

The caller, ‘Moha’, had summoned him to the DCI headquarters on Kiambu Road but Mr Odongo declined to go, instead demanding to be picked up at the Embakasi station.

At the Embakasi station, three officers took him to a room and questioned him before leaving him in a cell.

“The questions they asked me didn’t even relate to the story we did on [the investor]. They were a bit personal questions such as how we pick stories, and where we get stories from. But one of them told me that I had angered mzee,” Mr Odongo said.

However, Mr Odongo refused to record a statement on advisement of his bosses who warned him not to commit himself without a lawyer.

Embakasi OCPD Apollo Wanyonyi said he could not comment on the arrest as the police station had only been used as custody for Mr Odongo.

“It is not my case. It was for the people at the CID headquarters. Ours was just custody,” Mr Wanyonyi told Nation on the phone Saturday.

Mr Odongo was released from police custody Saturday morning. His arrest led to public outrage on social media.

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