Arresting and intimidating scribes has no place in this day

By: DOMINIC WAMUGUNDA

Nation journalist’s story about how the police whisked him away and demanded that he records a statement reminded me of an event that took place around Parliament Buildings back in 1976.

The late Martin Shikuku had made a comment to the effect that Kanu was dead. Some other member demanded that he substantiates.

The man on the speaker’s chair at the time was the Deputy Speaker Jean Marie Seroney who wondered how one substantiates the obvious.

Both of them were picked up as soon as they got out of Parliament and detained without trial for the following two years.

John Ngirachu was a little luckier on account that major changes to our governance system have happened since the 1970s.

MEDIA FREEDOM

It seems that whoever had ordered his arrest came to his or her senses rather fast and realised that our 2010 Constitution guarantees certain freedoms including that of the media.

For those who care to read, article 34 is quite clear on that subject.

Throughout history, those who have information and to empower their fellow citizens by passing on such information have been the first victims of dictatorial regimes.

Journalists, particularly investigative ones are often seen as a threat to those in power who have something to hide.

One thing that is very clear is that the democratic space that we enjoy today would not have been possible without the role played by the media — and individual journalists — which goes hand in hand with the freeing of airwaves.

But is there any real need to restrict gate keepers where information that is relevant to our common social existence is concerned?

TRANSPARENCY

Does it make any sense in this day and age to intimidate a journalist unless the information he has is something to do with matters that must be kept hidden for whatever reason?

A legitimate government ought to do things in such a way that they have nothing to hide.

Such a government must also endeavour to manage public information in such a way that citizens are not left feeling like they are in the dark or helpless to a point that they can be taken advantage of by other forces.

In these days of serious political contest, this is a matter of critical importance.

Arresting and intimidating journalists and other gate keepers is outdated and will not be the solution.

The arm of government that manages public information has to reinvent itself and be more proactive in confronting matters of public interest.

The public have the right to information and the Constitution protects the channels that give it.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION