Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Kenya: Update on the "Shake the Snake" Press Freedom Affair

I wanted to update my previous post about the attack on press freedom in Kenya of March 2, 2006. According to the East African Standard and other news organizations thousands of ordinary citizens, journalists and media professionals, business leaders and political figures carried out peaceful protests all across Kenya yesterday. Below are links to the latest reports from The Standard Online, the newspaper at the center of the Kenyan “Shake the Snake” police raids.

I would also like to congratulate the people of Kenya who participated in the protests for conducting themselves in a peaceful manner and not giving the cordons of riot police and security forces any excuse to exercise violence against the public in the name of “national security”. Instead, the police had a front row seat to watch democracy and free speech in action on the streets of Nairobi.

Here are excerpts from press articles about the raids and protests and The Standard Online’s 11-page special feature for International Women’s Day 2006:

The Standard (March 8, 2006):
In Media’s Name

Thousands of Kenyans took to the streets of Nairobi and four major towns yesterday in an emotive defence of Press freedom following the shocking raid of Standard Group’s premises by hooded police commandos.

Led by Orange Democratic Movement leaders, they spilled into the streets of Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kisumu and Nakuru, to demand the resignation of Security minister John Michuki and his Information and Communications counterpart, Mutahi Kagwe.

In one of the country’s most peaceful and incident-free public demonstrations, the leaders, who included former ministers Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, set the pace for the public protest, walking in the first column with hands locked in a show of solidarity. The leaders demanded that President Kibaki immediately issue a statement on the raid on the Standard and KTN.

The Standard: The horrific attack that is still fresh in Kenyans’ minds

If you want to humble an empire, it makes sense to maim its cathedrals. They are the symbols of faith and when they crumble and burn, it tells us that we are not so powerful and we cannot be safe.
Nancy Gibbs, Time Magazine 2001.

The blue towering building on Kenyatta Avenue at the City Centre and the squat one that houses The Standard Group printing press on Likoni Road in Nairobi’s Industrial Area are the sanctuaries of news that our enemies imagine define us.

And when a squad of hooded police officers attacked the buildings in the wee hours of last Wednesday morning, the aim was to cow us and shake our faith as writers — to remind us that "we are after all not so powerful".

The Standard’s International Women’s Day 2006 Special Feature
Women at the Top
(Caution! This is a 28 MB PDF file mega-download, and worth it.)

Google News search: Kenyan press raids

BBC News Online (March 8, 2006):
Kenyans protest at media raids

Washington Post (March 3, 2006)
Kenya official defends raid on media group

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