The Media Council of Kenya has called the police summons of journalists in the aftermath of the ‘Guns Galore’ exposé an affront to press freedom.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the council, while emphasizing the DCI’s role, asked the directorate to investigate criminal elements within the police force rather than summoning journalists or claiming to conduct investigations.
“Summoning journalists about their work or coercing them to reveal their sources is a violation of Press freedom and the Constitution,” the council said on Tuesday.
“In this case where the media has exposed weaknesses among some elements in the National Police Service, natural justice demands the same Service cannot then purport to investigate or otherwise summon the journalists. Instead, efforts should be put toward finding out how their members are providing civilians with guns, bullets, uniforms and handcuffs, ”The council also noted that journalists are protected while carrying out public duty by the Kenyan law and other international instruments including the Tswane Principles on National Security and Freedom of Expression.
The Media Council has urged the DCI, if it is dissatisfied, to file a complaint with the Media Complaints Commission, which is legally mandated to handle such matters under Section 27 of the Media Council Act 2013.
The DCI dismissed the expose on Monday in a televised press briefing, claiming that the AK-47 seen in the video was a Chinese-made replica, among other things.
Charles Mwongera — the directorate’s ballistic expert — who was also present at the briefing, dismantled the assault rifle and determined it to be a replica, claiming that several of its parts were taken from different guns and did not correspond with its serial number.
“This gun is a copy of the Russian AK-47 made in China, its parts are also be from different guns as their serials do not correspond with the guns serial number,” he said.
At the same time, he said that the rifle’s modifications — such as the copper wire on the cleaning rod and decorative pins on the buttstock — were typical of rifles used by cattle rustlers in Northern Kenya.
He also discounted the Turkish-made pistol found during the exposé as a non-lethal firearm readily available at licensed gun shops and in the criminal world.
“We call this a baby pistol, you would normally find it in the criminal world, they have recently been on the increase, it is not a strong weapon,” Mr. Mwongera added.
The press conference followed a Citizen TV exposé which showed criminals confessing to obtaining weapons, police uniforms, handcuffs, and vests from officers in order to commit crimes.
The exposé, which took over a year to put together, drew the ire of Kenyans and human rights lobby groups, who demanded that the claims be urgently investigated.
The lobby groups also called for protection of journalists who work in risky conditions.