Controlling the “facts”
The Kenyan Controversial Media Bill: Effort by the government to monopolise the controlling of “facts.”
The current heated debate on the controversial media bill that seeks to muzzle the Kenyan press explains the simmering power struggles between the press and the government over who should control the information. At the centre of the entire debate is the effort by the government to have proper control of the “facts.” Writes, Clifford Derrick
A kin to the old adage: information is power, the government is aware that by compelling editors through a legislation to reveal their sources should a story become subject of a court tussles, the government shall have taken the control of the information from the media.
The media will be compelled by law to produce any kind of information plus the complete details of the sources. This puts the media at cross odd with their sources since no individual or collective journalists can claim the monopoly of investigative ideas.
A threat to whistle-blowers
In many a times, news sources normally approach individual journalist with information. Our task has always been to conduct our independent investigations to authenticate the claims by news sources.
Should the bill sail through, it will mean that the government will technically prevent whistle-blowers from revealing in confidence what they know to the media. This is suspect because the same government recently passed a law intended to protect the same whistle-blowers.
Hiding behind national interest
What this means therefore is that the government wants people with information to pass it directly to the police but not the media, because the public will consider it safe to do so.
One can clearly make a case that the governments intention to control the “facts” is not in any case in the interest of the nation but instead, in the interest of certain individuals within the government centres and corridors of power.
Individuals in the governments abuse their offices by using the guarded “facts” either for personal gains or for political survival. Guarded information can only be released if such information serves their purposes.
The government hides under the notion of the National interests and State security as the reasons why certain information must not be revealed by the media when in essence, the main reason behind such pretences is for personal gain.
For the government, even information regarding top criminals must be guarded because the same criminals may prove to be financially useful to their course.
The mungiki manace
The Mungiki menace in Kenya today is one classical case of the Governments double standard when t comes to dealing with what affects the majority of the populace. Kibaki’s government had and still have full information regarding the activities of the sect, including their main funders.
Such information are tightly guarded by high ranking officers in the government and can never be disclosed to the public through the media mainly because the group are still perceived as potential political tool in the forth-coming general elections.
Of course, this was the case during the former President Moi’s regime when Mungiki served as political scarecrow used to silence opposition politicians particularly in Central province.
As long as the sect was serving the interests of the state – not the public – their criminality was not an issues and the government could not provide any known facts about these people to the media or to the public.
Trade-of with criminals: the case of Kabuga
Perhaps one of the recent examples that can best explain the trade-of of “fact” between the government and criminals and the reason why the government wants to control the information, is the case of one of the most wanted genocideur believed to be protected by the Kenyan government.
There have been several allegations that the Kenyan government is keeping one Felicien Kabuga who is being sought by International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Convention.
The fugitive is blamed for masterminding the killing of over one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in the 1994 genocide. Several reports point an accusing finger at the Kenyan government for harbouring and protecting Kabuga.
Government protecting a fugitive
The Kenyan government are alive to all these reports, they are aware of the presences of this criminal in the country but they would not divulge the same information to anybody else. Former police reservists Mr. Epaphras Muthoko wrote a letter to Kibaki sometime last year, regarding the presence of the fugitive in the country.
He insisted that Kabuga was in the country, enjoying protection under top security men. “I want to share the Kabuga story with you, Mr. President, so that swift action can be taken to arrest him instantly,” said Mr. Muthoko.
He told the president that the fugitive was receiving high profile protection from senior government officials in the country.
In the same letter, Mr. Muthoko who is in hiding for the fear of his life, alleged that a number of his fellow police reservists who tried to reveal the location of the fugitive have been assassinated by the same government operatives.
A million dollar question
A million dollar questions that one wonders are; why should a government protect a criminal responsible for such a mass killing? Is it in the interest of Kenyans or in the interests of certain clique within the system?
Is it a collective responsibility to keep such secrets under key and lock from the media and the public? All these questions are greeted with an obvious emphatic NO answer.
The reality is that Kabuga is enjoying protection of the Kenyan government because of his earlier activities in the country. In 1994, just before the Rwandan genocide, Kabuga, in connection with some senior individuals in former President Moi’s regime, purchased about 50,000 Machetes in Kenya in preparation to massacre the Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Fugitive funding government
Kabuga also has millions of dollars in the Kenyan banks under different names of his Kenyan confidents.
He is capable of sponsoring an entire presidential campaign and therefore is a valuable tool for the current administration.
When Moi recently decided to back president Kibaki’s second term, to complete his constitutionally acceptable period, one wonders the zeal at which he dismissed the opposition front runners as power hungry and self seekers.
Kenyans, and indeed the world should know that the former president is a man living in fears and uncertainty should a straight forward man take over the power form Kibaki.
Siri Kali: top secreats
The main trepidation that bedevils the majority of the former regime is that of Kabuga whom they provided with full security while they were in power in exchange of billions of money that even sponsored their 1997 and 2002 elections.
The Kabuga issues are among other siri kali (top secreats) that the former regime handed over to the current administration and it explains why some people are contemplating nightmares just by imagining a Raila presidency.
It also explains why there are masked forces in the name of business men promising to part with a million each per plate to solicit for proper financial backing capable of bribing every Kenyan to vote the current administration.
Kenyans must know the truth about some of these developments and this can only be achieved when the media is free and the public have no fear of retribution supported by the draconian laws.
Keeping the government on toes
The government must be kept on toes by constantly breaking some of their highly guarded facts to the public. The journalists are not angles nor do they have omnipresent cameras recording every movement of the politicians and their criminal associates. We rely on patriotic citizens who provide us with inside information about the activities of some of these leaders.
Majority of news sources have either blood, professional, or social relations with the suspects they are reporting about, and would not provide information to the journalist if their relationship with their colleagues will be strained if their names are revealed.
In my four years as an investigative journalist, I have come to realize that most of major crimes are sponsored by top leaders in the society. Unfortunately, the people who end up in jail or with bullet wounds are the common man who are used and dumped by a chain of prominent personalities.
As much as sources may have hidden and sometimes unreasonable agendas, in many cases journalists do not take sources stories as gospel truth.
We are ethical
We follow every journalistic ethical principles to corroborate the facts, balance the story ensure accuracy and minimize harm depending on the nature of the story. But the reality is that the art of journalism cannot succeed without sources.
The Clause 38 (4) which reads: “When a story includes unnamed sources and the matter goes to court, the editor of the story shall be compelled to reveal the source”, provides an opportunity for any criminal whose activities have been exposed to proceed to court purposely to know who betrayed him/her.
This is not only a threat to the survival of journalism as a watchdog of the society but it renders a fatal blow to democracy. The public will be compromised to join in the conspiracy of silence for the fear of being punished if they expose scandals.
Though this offending clause has been deleted, thanks to the pressure from the friends of free media, it is important to remember that the act by the Information Minister, Mutahi Kagwe is a tactical retreat because of the forthcoming general elections.
In an unlikely event that the current government is re-elected, the bill will be forced into Kenyans with a bang and this time, Kibaki will certainly append his signature.
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