NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Kenya’s government spokesman appeared to make a veiled threat Wednesday against international journalists while announcing a tough stance on information deemed divisive surrounding nationwide elections March 4.
Government spokesman Muthui Kariuki told a gathering of international reporters that the government will summon journalists who publish stories that have a polarizing effect. He did not say what action would then be taken.
Kariuki told the journalists: “We will set you on fire before you set us on fire.” He said the media and pollsters were the catalysts of violence that rocked Kenya following a disputed presidential vote five years ago.
“We believe to a greater extend that 2007-08 (violence) was as a result of a lot of information that journalists wrote and passed on to our people,” he said.
Tom Rhodes of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Kariuki’s threat to set journalists on fire and his accusations that the foreign press instigated some of Kenya’s postelection violence was “utterly reprehensible and unbecoming of a government spokesman.”
“The government spokesmen should refrain from empty accusations and explain specifically how the foreign press was responsible for inciting the postelection violence and respect Kenya’s constitution that provides ample provisions for press freedom,” Rhodes said.
More than 1,000 people died and 600,000 were driven from their homes following the December 2007 vote. The government is seeking to prevent a repeat of violence during this year’s election.
Meanwhile, the top two contenders for Kenya’s presidency were officially registered Wednesday by Kenya’s electoral authority.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission cleared Prime Minister Raila Odinga and running mate Vice president Kalonzo Musyoka as candidates for the Coalition for Reform and Democracy. It also listed presidential candidate Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former government minister and vice presidential candidate William Ruto as candidates for the Jubilee Alliance.
Kenyatta and Ruto face crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court for allegedly orchestrating the post poll chaos after the flawed 2007 presidential vote. A high court will determine the candidates’ compliance for the positions.
A total of eight candidates will vie for the presidency in the March 4 elections. Candidates must get 50 percent of the vote plus one in order to be elected. Otherwise the top two candidates will compete head-to-head in a runoff vote in April, the same month that Kenyatta and Ruto face trial at The Hague.
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