Raila calls off The Star newspaper boycott

Says he has instead filed a complaint with the Media Council.

In Summary

• Raila said in a press statement on Thursday that the move followed consultations with stakeholders.

Raila Odinga reading The Star Newspaper
Raila Odinga reading The Star Newspaper
Image: FILE

Azimio leader Raila Odinga has withdrawn calls for Kenyans to boycott The Star newspaper which he issued on Tuesday.

Raila said in a press statement on Thursday that the move followed consultations with stakeholders.

"WE have agreed to call off our boycott of The Star newspaper. Instead, we have filed a complaint with the Media Council of Kenya with the paper's biases," Raila said. 

Raila on Tuesday called on Kenyans to boycott The Star alongside Kenya Commercial Bank and Safaricom and accused the newspaper, one of Radio Africa Group's products, of being biased towards Azimio.

This is despite the Star remaining independent, impartial and objective on its coverage of both sides of the political divide in the run up to and after last year's general election.

The boycott call attracted uproar from the media fraternity amid fears the move could trigger attacks on journalists.

Media Council of Kenya, the sector regulatore, issued a statement condemning the move with chief executive David Omwoyo saying press freedom is a essential right that allows journalists to report on events, issues and people without fear of censorship or repression.

“Such attacks undermine the freedom of the press and are attempts to undermine the role of the press in freely informing the electorates based on the editorial judgments," Omwoyo said.

Radio Africa Group CEO Patrick Quarcoo issued a statement and condemned the attack on The Star terming it unfortunate, unjustified and irresponsible.

Quarcoo said in its 15 years of existence, the Star has remained neutral in its coverage of political events across the country and has received awards for its objectivity over the years.

"Raila knows, only too well, the importance of a free and independent press in promoting good governance and transparency in the management of public affairs, which he is fighting for," he said.

Quarcoo pointed out that the Star has over the years, reported and criticised all political sides where criticism has been justified.

"Fair comment has been our guiding principle," he said. 

"To, therefore, single out the Star for attack, Raila and the Azimio leaders are wrong. The call is not just an attack on the freedom of the media, but puts the lives of those working for the Star at risk."

The Media Owners Association and the Editors Guild joined in the condemnation in separate statements and urged Azimio to follow the law in addressing their grievances.

"The Media Owners Association believes this is an attack on press freedom since not a single complaint has been lodged with the company or Media Owners Association," MOA chairman Stephen Gitagama said on Wednesday.

The Kenya Editors' Guild President Churchill Otieno described the statement by the Azimio leader as an insult to media freedom. 

"His utterances are taken seriously and where they potentially affect the safety and security of journalists then they become most unhelpful," Otieno said. 

Star Head of Content Paul Ilado said the call to boycott The Star is misinformed considering freedom of the media is guaranteed in the Constitution.

Ilado said Azimio's attack on the Star was uncalled for considering it has all through adhered to impartiality in its reporting. 

"In the last election, The Star was the only media house that carried out objective opinion polls consistently that showed a tight race," he said.

The Kenya Union of Journalists said it was shocked beyond comfort by remarks saying the call would puncture the independence of the media.

"No Raila, you are wrong on this one," KUJ secretary general Eric Oduor said in a statement.

"The boycott call and derogatory remarks, do not only puncture independence of the media but put at risk the lives of journalists working with the Star newspapers who will soon become victims of assault by overzealous Azimio supporters all over the country."

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