Azimio slams Kenya Kwanza, MCK on press freedom

Opiyo Wandayi

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party has accused President William Ruto's administration of attempting to gag the media in the country and infringing on the freedom of expression as outlined in the constitution.

According to the National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, the move by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) to pressure media houses to release footage of a raid at former interior cabinet secretary Fred Matiangi’s home is meant to intimidate the media.

“We watched in shock and dismay as media houses have been put under pressure by the State and its support agencies to prove that indeed there was a raid in the home of former Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. That warped and twisted logic was not meant to aid the investigations in any way but to cover it up and ensure journalists do not delve into such reporting going forward. The State wants to be allowed to act in complete darkness,” Mr Wandayi said in a statement.

MCK had on February 11 told media houses to provide pictorial evidence of the February 8 alleged raid on Dr Matiang’i’s home. Then on March 6, MCK issued a statement saying the “coverage of the alleged police raid at former cabinet Secretary Dr Matiang’i’s house failed Kenyans.”

“While the Council is committed to fearlessly defending media freedom, safety of journalists and ensuring the government entities leave media to operate freely, MCK has a duty to protect Kenyans from unfair coverage and media practice,” MCK boss David Omwoyo said in the statement.

“The Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya was developed by the media fraternity themselves and recognised by parliament as a law. MCK monitors the media adherence to the same and exercises regulatory oversight.”

Mr Wandayi has also said that the ongoing intimidation is meant to silence the media and gag it from performing its role as the watchdog in society.

“With these threats, the stage is being set for the media to stop shining the lights on the actions of the State and its support cast. The government wants to be allowed to act in darkness so that it can solidify impunity, corruption and dictatorship. We must begin to speak out now before the emerging threats give way to journalists and citizens being killed or imprisoned,” he added.

Mr Opiyo’s statement comes after sentiments by Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot who last week claimed that the media was a cartel that needs to be crushed.

In a tweet, Mr Cheruiyot sensationally claimed that the administration of President Ruto was keen on crushing cartels in the country including the Kenyan media and banking.

“Pres WSR [President William Samoei Ruto] will succeed in crushing every cartel in the country save for two that are extremely powerful. 1. KE Banks [Kenyan banks] 2. KE Media [Kenyan media]. Both are very powerful, influential and synergise so well to protect each other’s interests. For public good, a way must be found,” he tweeted.

His utterances drew reactions from across the country with stakeholders urging him to cease attacking the media.

Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) president Churchill Otieno condemned the utterances by Mr Cheruiyot saying they were intended to disparage the media in the country.

Despite the uproar over his comments, an unapologetic Mr Cheruiyot later tweeted and claimed that his comments were true.