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Kenya’s investigative journalists get death threats

NAIROBI, KENYA. (CPJ). Two Kenyan investigative journalists, Mohammed Ali and John-Allan Namu, received death threats from anonymous callers and via social networking sites last week Wednesday shortly after airing a story suggesting foul play in a government official’s death, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on Friday, citing local news reports and journalists.

Ali and Namu are working for the private TV network KTN.

“We received threats two days ago, and it was made clear that we were being watched, and there was a plan to eliminate both of us,” Namu told CPJ.

David Ohito, news editor of The Standard, which is also affiliated with KTN, told CPJ that the threats were linked to an investigative story called Inside Story: death in 10 Minutes, aired on KTN two weeks ago, which suggested foul play in a helicopter crash that killed former Interior Minister George Saitoti.

Saitoti and his deputy Orwa Ojode, alongside two pilots and two bodyguards, were killed in a helicopter crash on 10 June last year in the southern town of Ngong.

According to the KTN story, the commission set up to investigate the crash failed to pursue leads that emerged during the investigation, among them that Saitoti and Ojode may have been poisoned to death.

The Standard said its journalists believe the threats originated from Kenya’s internal security department. Ohito told CPJ that The Standard had contacted authorities to express their concern about the threats. The publication also said they were planning to provide the journalists with extra security if more threats occurred.

“We hold Kenyan authorities responsible for the safety and well-being of Ali and  Namu,” CPJ East Africa consultant Tom Rhodes said. “These threats are clearly motivated by the journalists’ report, which raised the possibility of official involvement in the crash.”

The police were not available for comment.

Police were also implicated in the January 2009 murder of Weekly Citizen journalist Francis Nyaruri, shortly after he investigated corruption within the police department.

Kenya is one of the most corrupt and violent countries in East Africa. Political intolerance is rife and internal power squabbles are a common sight. The country’s newly-elected head of state, Uhuru Kenyatta, is being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), and faces life behind bars after being suspected of allegedly masterminding the country’s deadly 2007-2008 post-election violence.

(Editing and additional reports by Issa Sikiti da Silva).

*Photo by Daily Post. Investigative journalists Mohamed Ali and John-Allan Namu.

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