Media / Watchdog
Thursday, 08 Dec 2016 21:08 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
Migori Governor Okoth Obado has disowned an alleged plot by some of his closest supporters to abduct and harm a journalist with the Standard newspaper whom they allege has been writing negative articles about the county government. The journalist, Scophine Otieno, has reported threats to her life to the Migori CID officer Benedict Kigen, whose department has launched investigations into the matter.
In the report, Ms Otieno alleges that a senior employee of the county administration informed her about a plot to kidnap and harm her for writing stories on corruption in the Migori government. She alleges that a meeting was recently held where the governor’s supporters made plans to have her abducted, raped and then dropped at a river bank in the county.
With the security of journalists becoming a major concern ahead of next year’s general elections, the report of the threats triggered concern among the nation’s media fraternity as a whole, with the Kenya Union of Journalists being seized with the matter. The Union’s secretary general, Eric Oduor, contacted the journalist and top officials of the Migori government to assess the threat level and call for understanding.
A top official of the county confirmed to Mr Oduor and the Kenya Free Press that the report about the alleged kidnap plot had been received but clarified that the plotters had no blessings of the governor. The official, political adviser Dennis Orero Onyango, said the reports were unfortunate and did not reflect the governor’s position.
“The Migori county government supports the freedom of the press. We work well with journalists including Scophine herself. As for these kind of supporters who are threatening journalists, we are clear that we don’t need their support,” said Mr Orero, who was traveling with the governor in Nairobi. He called the journalist to assure her of her security in light of the threats.
Earlier, the KUJ had begun a process to mobilize Migori-based journalists to present a petition to Governor's office on Monday December 12 to protest the threats. Mr Oduor told this reporter that, notwithstanding the assurance by Mr Orero, the Union will continue to assess the threat level before deciding the next course of action.
Independent sources in Migori informed this newspaper that some of Ms Otieno’s writing for her Standard newspaper had incensed Governor Obado’s camp which sees her as advancing the political ambitions of former energy minister Ochilo Ayako, who is expected to run against Obado for the ODM nomination. The Obado/Ayako contest has emerged as a potential flashpoint for election-related violence, and the threats on Ms Otieno will further cast the shadow on voting in a region that witnessed substantial chaos in 2013.
Sources in the county intimated to this writer that, long before the current threats, a relative of the governor had passed a veiled threat to the reporter, telling her in Dholuo, "telo irito" (leadership must be guarded) implying that the governor's supporters would not brook opposition from quarters they can overrun.