The editor of a Kenyan weekly tabloid has been jailed for a year after being found guilty of libelling a cabinet minister, writes Eric

Mburu Muchoki, the editor of The Independent, had been found guilty for libelling justice and constitutional affairs minister Martha Karua and fined Kshs 500 000 (US$7000) or one year’s imprisonment. He failed to pay the fine.

Karua, formerly of the water resources ministry, had sued Muchoki, whose newspaper specialises in sensational stories mainly involving prominent personalities, over a 2004 story alleging her father was involved in an abortion scandal.

But the High Court ruling has been heavily attacked, with a press freedom lobby group calling for its reversal.

In a statement, Reporters Without Borders asked the Kenyan government to ensure that judges pass fair sentences for press offences in future by amending the current legislations.

“Jailing a journalist for allegedly defaming a government minister is unfair and disproportionate, and does not redress the offence,” it said.

It added that the severity of the sentence in Muchoki's case adds to the sense of injustice.

"To deal with this problem, the government must set about amending its defamation law and in the meantime should release Muchoki," said Reporters Without Borders.

After the ruling, his lawyer Nelson Oundu claimed the presiding judge Teresia Ngugi is Karua’s close friend, saying this influenced her decision to jail the editor. He vowed to appeal the sentence.