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Kenya detains three scribes, groups protest

Three Kenyan journalists have been arrested over a story on political intrigue in President Mwai Kibaki's ruling National Rainbow Coalition.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2006 17:48 IST

Three Kenyan journalists have been arrested over a weekend story on political intrigue in President Mwai Kibaki's fractious ruling National Rainbow Coalition.

The arrests drew immediate protests from watchdog groups in Kenya and abroad.

The three were arrested on Tuesday after the government complained about an article that a paper had published, alleging that Kibaki held a secret meeting with rival Kalonzo Musyoka to discuss how the former cabinet minister would rejoin the government, possibly as vice president.

Kibaki and Musyoka have denied that they held a meeting.

Police, meanwhile, confirmed that they were holding the three journalists.

"It is true (that they have been arrested)," Danson Ndiru, a senior criminal investigation officer, said. Kibaki sacked his entire cabinet after Kenyans rejected a new constitution he had backed in a Nov. 21 referendum.

Musyoka, one of seven dissident ministers who opposed the proposed constitution, was left out of a new cabinet made up mostly of long-time Kibaki loyalists.

New York-based press freedom group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, on Wednesday condemned the detention of the three.

"If you detain reporters and editors for routine political coverage, you're essentially criminalising journalism itself," Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ, said in a statement.

"We call on authorities to release our colleagues immediately and unconditionally, and ensure that the Kenyan press is free to report on political developments without such intimidation."

The National Convention Executive Council (NCEC), a lobby group for a new constitution in Kenya, said the arrests were political because no complaint had been made with the police.

Kenya has tough press laws drafted in the days of former President Daniel arap Moi, under whose autocratic regime many journalists were arrested and sometimes tortured.

Under Kibaki, who succeeded Moi in 2002, the Kenyan media have embraced new-found press freedoms with articles and commentary critical of the government and have helped expose multi-million-dollar graft scandals.

First Published: Mar 01, 2006 17:02 IST