My father—Philip Ochieng—took a week off from his usual commentary; it's not unprecedented (he’s been in precarious health of late). However, there is quite a bit of other interesting opinion-writing regarding the governmental raid of the Kenyan newspaper The Standard and the nation’s TV station, KTN.
Daily Nation Editorial, March 5, 2006 (I don't think that my father wrote this; it isn't in his writing style):
National Security minister John Michuki is trying very hard to back up his claim that that most brazen assault on the media since independence was in the interests of national security.
He is saying that the raid on the Standard newspapers and KTN premises - conducted by a shadowy police unit operating more like a private militia - had uncovered evidence of material that posed a threat to national security. Mr Michuki, however, was extremely economical with details on exactly what had been found. The most he could offer was that it was still being analysed.
This, to us, sounds like a desperate attempt to manufacture justification for a raid which has done incalculable harm to a government that was elected on a human rights and rule of law platform. The minister stated with his own mouth that anyone who provokes a snake must expect to be bitten.
We presume he meant that the Standard provoked the snake. So, anything else about alleged threats to state security can only be an afterthought. What happened was a blatant display of the coercive power of state machinery gone mad.
When a government turns loose hooded men on the population, when a government throws out the law, it ceases being a government and becomes an enemy of the people, an imposition willing to have its criminal way irrespective of the will of the people. [SNIP]
I don't think the government's criminal actions against the media was [sic] a punishment or revenge for an inaccurate story; rather, the story was merely an excuse, an opportunity to send a brutal message not just to the media but to the opposition and Kenyans, in general.
One thing was clear. This was not simply a bumbling operation by drunken officers. It was planned and deliberately executed. Could there be a cabal in government that has decided to throw all rationality out of the window and resort to bareknuckles in the name of combating imagined enemies of the State?(Don’t ask me how to pronounce the names.)
Lately, dark mutterings by State functionaries about there being "too much freedom" in the country have been on the increase. Soon, somebody in those circles is going to learn that such displays as we saw on Thursday are a suicidal way to demonstrate that the leadership has a backbone.
And if the intention was to send a message, violent as it were, to the Standard's owners, or its Board of Directors ... well ... that has been received loud and clear by everybody, even those it was not intended for. You can count the Kenyan voter right in there. When somebody in this government once told one [former Kenyan President] Daniel arap Moi to sit back and watch how a government is run, surely this could not have been what they had in mind.
It appears that much of the country’s journalist population hasn’t be cowed by the government’s action against its colleagues. That’s a sign of hope. That Kenya’s media entities still feel free enough to slam its president and cabinet members for their apparent anti-liberal actions shows that they will not sit quietly while press freedom is violated.
As an additional twist to the situation, however, it's reported that the head of Kenya’s police agency officials wasn’t in the loop about the raids.
It has now emerged [that Kenyan] police commissioner Mohamed Hussein Ali was kept in the dark about the swoop, even though it was his own officers who masterminded the attack. [SNIP]Note to those who claim that free speech is clamped down upon here in the US: this is what real oppression looks like.
In the case of the raid on the Standard Group HQ and printing plant, it has emerged that final details of the raid were rehearsed during a meeting held at Harambee House [originally the official residence of the head of state, but, in practice, now the State House] on Wednesday evening. National Security minister John Michuki and CID [Central Investigation Department] director Joseph Kamau were reported to be present but Maj Gen Ali was not even invited.