Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Police Threaten Kenyan Journalists ; Inspector General Accuses Media of Twisting Reports on Response to Mall Siege

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Police Threaten Kenyan Journalists ; Inspector General Accuses Media of Twisting Reports on Response to Mall Siege

Article excerpt

Journalists are being threatened with arrest days after footage showing possible looting of the Westgate mall by Kenyan forces was aired on television.

Kenyan journalists came under threat this past week from the authorities over their coverage of last month's Westgate mall attack, after video suggesting possible looting by Kenyan forces was broadcast on national television.

Kenya's criminal-investigations police unit on Thursday summoned three senior Kenyan media figures involved with a popular investigative television news program. It ran an hourlong special last week, and again this week, raising questions about the government's response to the siege, with footage of Kenyan security agents seemingly looking through mall merchandise while searching for the attackers who stormed the mall and killed more than 60 people.

In a speech on Wednesday, Kenya's police inspector general, David Kimaiyo, lashed out at coverage of the investigation into the mall attack, claiming that news reports were meant to provoke a "propaganda war" and incite negative opinions of the country's security forces.

Mr. Kimaiyo said that such acts had been "championed" by the news station KTN and that journalists engaged in such acts would be apprehended.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York, described Wednesday's police statement and Thursday's summoning of the media figures as the kind of "forced patriotism" that was "potentially a sign of a downward spiral of press freedom" in Kenya.

The country has had one of the freest and most robust news industries in Africa, but it is currently facing two new bills that could give sweeping new power over news organizations to the national minister of information.

The police comments came days after closed-circuit video from inside the Westgate mall during the attack appeared in the news media showing Kenyan security agents carrying full plastic shopping bags out of the Nakumatt supermarket in the mall, where the bulk of fighting took place. …

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