Why treat investigative journalism as a crime?

An investigative story alleging collusion between cops and thugs sparked DCI fury

In Summary

• Citizen TV found itself in the detectives' cross-hairs after airing a guns-for-hire story 

• Kinoti said to infringe on media freedom instead of investigating the alleged crimes

DCI George Kinoti addressing journalists during press conference on the expose on April 20, 2021.
DCI George Kinoti addressing journalists during press conference on the expose on April 20, 2021.

Just days to today's World Press Freedom Day, a local broadcaster found itself on the spot over a gun-hiring exposé that alleged police collusion with thugs. 

Editorial heads of Citizen Television were summoned by Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti in what critics termed an affront to free press.

Kinoti complained on April 20 that the TV’s 'Gun’s Galore' investigative report, aired two days earlier, was false.

“The report seemed to be a malicious attempt to discredit the National Police Service. We can only conclude that it was aimed at creating public pandemonium over the management of the security sector," he said.

The expose’ had claimed cops were hiring out guns at a fee to criminals, who would then use them to commit crimes.

But police bosses, including Inspector General Hillary Mutyambai, dismissed the reporting as a work of fiction meant to portray officers in bad light.

Kinoti summoned the editorial bosses of the station “to shed more lights on the reporting”, questioning how the guns were acquired and where the characters in the story hailed from.

Reports emerged suggesting the police officers guarding the RMS studios in Nairobi were withdrawn following the airing of the report.

The move by the DCI was roundly condemned as infringing on the right of media outlets to carry out independent reporting and intimidating the press.

Media Council of Kenya issued a statement saying, “The council takes great exception to the summons issued against the editorial leadership of Royal Media Services by the DCI George Kinoti over the exposé dated 18th April, 2021, with the titles 'Silaha Mtaani' and 'Guns Galore'.”

It asserted that the reporter did her job as a public duty and deserves protection and not intimidation from state agents, including the DCI.

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua protested that instead of embarking on investigating the claims raised in the story, the police were on a mission to cow the media outlet.

"It is lazy DCI Kenya who summons an investigative journalist instead of picking the leads and embarking on full investigations," Karua said.

Amnesty International executive director Houghton Irungu said Kinoti needs to de-escalate tension against the media and that the DCI must reverse the decision to leave Citizen TV unprotected from violent criminals.

“Like a pair of scissors needs two blades, violent crime management needs both investigative journalism and investigative policing,” he said.

Civil Society Reference Group coordinator Suba Churchill termed the move by the DCI a manifestation of press freedom that only exists in form but not in susbstance. 

"As we have always known, press freedom is not there in this country. They are only allowed to operate when compliant, not touching on areas considered by state as sacred."