The African Editors' Forum has expressed its dismay at the unfolding crisis in Kenya, which has affected journalists as much as the rest of the citizenry.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Read its open letter on the subject.
OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MWAI KIBAKI, RAILA ODINGA AND AU CHAIRPERSON OF COMMISSION PROF ALPHA OUMAR KONARÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â° AND CHAIRPERSON OF AU PRESIDENT JOHN KUFUOR
The African EditorsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Forum (TAEF) is a body of Editors and senior editorial executives from all over Africa. Our members have fresh and fond memories of Nairobi and the hospitality of Kenyan Editors and other journalists who hosted us during our biannual conference held in Nairobi at the beginning of November 2007.
We witnessed from close by as the preparations for the elections and the campaign were underway while we were there. We left Kenya buoyed by the mood of expectation and the enthusiasm palpable in the streets as motorcade after motorcade of campaigners blaring their messages made their way through the streets.
We knew that a new Africa was afoot, one based on regular mandate-seeking from the electorate but, even more importantly, one based on a citizenry staying engaged with the politics that determine who presides over government.
Since December 27, we have witnessed as the dream turned into an unending nightmare. Journalists, our primary concern, have become victims of the violence that has engulfed Kenya as people bicker about who the winner is.
But how could journalists escape the ferocious slide to anarchy that has now gripped Kenya? People killed in churches, a child thrown into a burning church, 19 people barricaded into a house burnt to death, an opposition party MP killed. The list is endless.
As Editors our responsibility is to reflect the reality on the ground, and our Kenyan brothers and sisters have been doing an excellent job in telling the unfolding story. But it is a story we should not tell, because it should not be happening. The barbarism that has emerged in Naivasha and Nakuru and the slums of Nairobi, and the militias that are now the new law, are an indictment to both President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.
As an organisation representing Editors in Kenya and elsewhere, the behaviour of the marauding squads of killers tarnish our name as Africans and we stand to say, for all to hear: NOT IN OUR NAME!
We believe both Kibaki and Odinga should exercise leadership and bring the mayhem to an end. And if they cannot, they should step aside and allow a new interim structure to emerge that would calm the situation and bring Kenya back from the abyss it is in.
We call on both of them to recommit to respecting the rights of their own people to do what they are professionally trained to do, in all fields, whether medicine, law, human rights, media etc, without being accused of belonging one political group or another. In particular, we call for the immediate lifting of the restriction on live broadcasting, which was imposed on December 30.
Lastly, as the African Union Heads of State and Government summit takes place in Addis Ababa, and fully understanding the need for diplomatic niceties to be observed, we call on the leadership gathered in Ethiopia to realize that murders most foul are being committed not far from where they meet.
Africa expects to see leadership displayed there that would enhance the efforts by the Kofi Annan mission and we call on the summit to make its voice heard about wanton abuses of human rights by Kenyan authorities.
Above all, we call on the AU to reiterate its long-standing position of freedom of the media and in particular the rights of journalists to do their work in situations of conflict without hindrance.
TAEF and its members remain committed to tell the African story in its glory and its goriness as evidenced by the unfolding situation in Kenya. No amount of intimidation and abuse is going to stop us from reporting the truth as we see it, as that would amount to censorship.
TAEF salutes the Kenya media fraternity for their steadfast stance to report without fear or favour and exhorts them to remain committed to the highest forms of journalism.