- The editor of 'The Independent', a Kenyan tabloid was yesterday sent to jail by a Nairobi court after he was found guilty of libelling the Justice Minister, Martha Karua. Editor Mburu Muchoki would have avoided a year's jail term if he had accepted the damage fine of about US$ 7,000.
A 2004 story captioned "Karua's father in abortion scandal" landed the editor of the sensationalist newspaper in troubles.
Mr Muchoki's lawyer, Nelson Oundu, said he was not surprised by the verdict, which he claimed was influenced by the close friendship between the presiding judge, Teresia Ngugi, and the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister.
While Editor Muchoki remains incarcerated in a Nairobi industrial zone prison, his attorney is busy filling an appeal.
The Parish-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) today issued a statement, condemning the verdict. It also urged the Kenyan government to amend the laws so that judges in future can pass fairer sentences for press offences.
"Jailing a journalist for allegedly defaming a government minister is unfair and disproportionate, and does not redress the offence," the press freedom organisation said. "The severity of the sentence in this 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," RSF urged Nairobi authorities.
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