Kenyan police on Tuesday arrested a journalist, Mr. John Ngirachu in relation to a Daily Nation article questioning how the Interior Ministry had spent 3.8 billion shillings (£24.62 million) in a single day. This latest media saga about corruption at the Interior Ministry, drew accusations from media groups that the government was trying to trample free speech. This follows other corruption allegations by government officials at the Devolution Ministry of which they also denied involvement in any corruption deals.
The interior Cabinet Secretary Mr. Joseph Nkaissery however denied the allegations and said that the war on corruption was increasingly taking the shape of a larger plot of economic sabotage and falsely portrayed his ministry as corrupt. Nkaissery warned anyone from spreading any false stories as they were going to be personally liable for their own actions.
Mr. Ngirachu was thrown in jail until he revealed where he got the information from. According to Ngirachu, the parliamentary report was already available to the public. Many saw this as an act by the government to intimidate journalists. He was later released on Tuesday evening after recording a statement.
Reports alleging outrageous spending by civil servants has raised pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has promised to tackle rampant corruption in a country where many people still live in poverty.
Nkaissery pointed out that there was a well-choreographed campaign to ignite mass action against Kenyatta’s government by alleging there was graft in Kenyan institutions.
“If the statement is anything to go by, the arrest of journalist John Ngirachu is only the beginning of tougher times for the media and any other independent voices brave enough to raise questions on the corruption crisis that ails our country,” said Linus Kaikai, the chairman of Kenya Editors Guild.
The former Prime Minister, Mr. Raila Odinga, among other prominent personalities also expressed his disappointment at the matter and offered two lawyers from the opposition side to support Mr. Ngirachu.
“While media reports exposing corruption are good for raising public awareness of the problem, actual steps need to be taken to investigate, prosecute and convict suspects”, Ambassador Robert Godec said .
Transparency International, in its 2014 corruption perception index, ranked Kenya close to the bottom; 145th out of 174 countries.
“This is the most corrupt Kenya has been since we began measuring corruption in the ’90s,” Mr. John Githongo, Kenya’s first anti-corruption adviser in 2005 said.