There is a narrative aimed at casting President Uhuru Kenyatta and his government as hellbent on undermining media freedom. The matter took a new turn when the President returned from the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last week.
Some reporters who had been deployed to cover his arrival took issue with presidential security for allegedly not allowing them to cover the function at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The question is, did Uhuru issue an order to bar the journalists from covering him? It should be noted that the security of the President is handled by highly qualified personnel who may take discretionary decisions.
At the airport, we only saw the Kenya Defense Forces personnel and top government officials, including Deputy President William Ruto, welcoming the President back to the country. Uhuru returned on the day that Nasa leader Raila Odinga was “sworn-in” as the “people’s president” and the journalists targeted apparently worked for the television stations that had been shut down early in the day.
The move followed fears that Nasa leaders wanted to take advantage of live coverage to incite supporters to cause chaos. I must thank the person who advised the State to withdraw the anti-riot police deployed to block the “swearing-in” and disperse Raila’s supporters.
Had the police not been withdrawn, we would probably have witnessed mass killings. A few days after Raila “swearing in”, the President was once again accused by some journalists from the mainstream media of harassing them.
This was after Uhuru asked reporters covering the Inspector General of Police conference at the Kenya School of Government, Nairobi to leave the function. After concluding reading his official speech, the President had asked them to wrap up their equipment and leave the venue. It is a fact that matters of national security are sensitive the world over.
The conference was held at a time when the security forces were being accused of “using excessive force” against Opposition supporters, a charge that the National Police Service (NPS) has dismissed, maintaining that it is apolitical and a neutral outfit.
As such, you would not have expected the media to be present when the NPS was briefing the President on in-house matters. The President’s call to journalists to leave the venue was therefore justified and did not amount to harassment. —The writer is a political analyst and blogger