Thousands in Kenya protest against police raids on newspaper, TV station
NAIROBI, Kenya – Thousands of opposition supporters and human rights activists demonstrated in Nairobi on Tuesday to protest against last week’s raids on Kenya’s oldest newspaper and its sister television station.It was the first time since Kenya’s 1963 independence that the government shut down major media operations. The country’s media have been reporting on corruption scandals swirling around President Mwai Kibaki, who has been seen as increasingly politically isolated.Waving placards and shouting that Internal Security Minister John Michuki “must go,” about 3,000 demonstrators walked peacefully through the Kenyan capital.Similar peaceful demonstrations were held in the southwestern towns of Nakuru and Eldoret, private TV reported.Michuki ordered Thursday’s raids in which armed and masked police smashed The Standard Group’s printing press and disrupted Kenya Television Network’s broadcast for 13 hours. The Standard was back on the streets and KTN back on their air the same day.The raids were condemned by Cabinet ministers, diplomats and citizens.”It is vital that we have a free press in Kenya,” said translator Rhoda Atieno, 31. “The assault on the Standard newspaper group was outrageous and shouldn’t happen in a democracy, and those responsible should go, without negotiation.”Some protesters held placards that read: “Mr. President, Stop Sponsoring State Terrorism.”Michuki has defended the raids, saying police had seized computer files containing evidence of a threat to state security, without elaborating.Three journalists for The Standard also were charged Thursday with causing public alarm by publishing a Feb. 25 report stating that Kibaki had met secretly with a key political opponent. The journalists had been detained three days earlier despite laws stipulating they should be held no more than 48 hours without charge.Kibaki and the National Rainbow Coalition swept 2002 elections on an anti-corruption and reform platform, ending 39 years of government led by the Kenya African National Union party.