January 20th 2018

Top Stories / National

Civil Society Reference Group expresses alarm at shrinking civic space

Going by the violent manner in which the State has dispersed groups that express themselves though public gatherings, processions and protests, it seems that only groups supportive of the government are now allowed to exercise their rights to freedoms of association, assembly and expression.

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comFriday, 15 Dec 2017 12:36 EAT

CURRENT STATE OF DETERIORATING FREEDOMS OF EXPRESSION, ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION IS A MATTER OF GREAT CONCERN AND CAN LEAD TO EXTREMIST UNDEGROUND ACTIVITIES AND THEIR UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES THAT THE GOVERNMENT MAY NOT BE ABLE TO REGULATE

The Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG) is concerned at the growing State intolerance to and clampdown on the freedoms of expression, assembly and independence of the media in the period leading to and after the August 8, General Elections and the repeat October 26 presidential elections.

In particular, the CSRG condemns the recent summon by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) of Nation Media Group’s Television anchor Larry Madowo over his interview with economist and National Super Alliance (Nasa) strategist David Ndii in August, and the unnecessary dispersal of anti-corruption crusaders by the police on December 10 at Freedom Corner - a day set aside internationally to draw public and global attention to the effects of corruption.

On 5th December 2017, a Mr. S.D. Kandie, on behalf of the Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro signed a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the Nation Media Group asking the CEO to avail Mr. Larry Madowo, the interviewer of David Ndii on August 22 at 9.00 pm to help with investigations on a case of incitement to violence and subversive activities purportedly committed by the interviewee.

The CSRG finds it strange that a police service that recently earned accolades of the Head of State and President of the Republic of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta for its “professionalism” has gone on a fishing expedition for evidence on alleged crimes as serious as incitement to violence and subversion, both of which would pose a serious threat to national security more than 3 months after the commission of the alleged offences!

Again, on December 9, 2017 police barred Transparency International – Kenya Chapter from holding a procession dubbed United Against Corruption in keeping with Transparency International’s global 2017 theme: Empowering Citizens’ Fight Against Corruption. But at 10.00 am Police led by Central Police Station Officer Commanding Police Station informed TI-Kenya and other anti-corruption crusaders that they “had orders from above not to allow any procession in and about the city”. 

This forced the group to hold a brief event within Freedom Corner, curtailing the original intention to draw public attention to the effects of corruption on the economic, social and political life of the people as had been intended.

As an organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the right to freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and the right to access and share information as pivotal cornerstones to good governance, the CSRG views the arrest of David Ndii and the summon of NTV journalist as an unmitigated affront on the freedom of the media that runs counter to the provisions of Article 43 of the Constitution that President Uhuru Kenyatta swore not too long ago to promote and defend.

Indeed, going by the violent manner in which the State has dispersed any group any group of citizens that have expressed a desire to express themselves though public gatherings, processions and protests, it seems that only groups supportive of the government are now allowed to exercise their rights to freedoms of association, assembly and expression.

This state of deteriorating freedom of expression, assembly and association should be a matter of great concern to the government as it is bound to spawn underground activities that the State may not be able effectively regulate. There is imminent danger that groups that may feel aggrieved by what now seems to be government policy to deny rights to these freedoms may get radicalized and become easy targets of extremists and pose greater danger to national security.

The CSRG therefore, calls on the national Security Council as established under the Constitution and placed under the leadership of the president, to seriously re-examine this unacceptable and untenable stand and policy on citizens’ rights to freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and adopt a more liberal approach that enables citizens and their organized groups to freely and responsibly enjoy their rights as envisaged in the Constitution.

Signed

Suba Churchill

.





Stay Connected