The circumstances surrounding the arrest of a Nation Media journalist, Walter Menya, for allegedly “soliciting a bribe to write a damaging story” continues to raise more questions than answers and has been turned to a political ping-pong ball between the government and opposition supporters.
Mr Menya was arrested on Sunday and locked up at an undisclosed police station where he spent the night.
According to his accuser, one Kennedy Kiprotich Koros, the journalist solicited cash to have the article “Civil servants in JP foundation say all they want is to alleviate poverty”, published in the Sunday Nation.
Koros says that Menya received Sh32, 000 between June 15 and 17 through M-Pesa and was arrested on June 18 at 12.30pm as he went to meet Mr Koros to collect the remaining Sh20, 000.
The article in question links three senior civil funds to bankrolling jubilee campaigns.
“Three top public officers are among the registered officials of a Jubilee campaign lobby that describes itself as a public service organisation despite questions being raised on their role,”reads the intro of the article as it appeared on the Sunday Nation.
“According to documents in possession of the Nation, Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner General John Njiraini, who is among the State officers the National Super Alliance wants charged with being involved in partisan politics, is a board member of the foundation as well as a signatory to FJF’s bank accounts. Also on the board is Energy Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge. He, too, is listed as a signatory to the foundation’s accounts.
Another public officer who sits on the board of the Foundation is the chairman of Kenya Leather Development Council Board Titus Ibui,” the article by Menya further states.
Critics have accused the government of curtailing on press freedom and for punishing the journalist for “rattling a snake” with the story.
Questions have also been raised about the source of the news Menya’s arrest, one Pauline Njoroge (a blogger associated with the government), who not only broke the news on social media but had exclusive photos and video footage on the arrest as well.
In an article titled ‘Something fishy about arrest of Nation writer‘, by Bernard Mwinzi, which was published in the daily nation on Monday, the writer also raised similar questions on the blogger’s involvement in the Walter Menya saga, terming the unfolding of events as “unusual”
“At the time, neither the senior management at Nation Media Group nor Mr Menya’s immediate supervisor knew that something was afoot.
Yet a blogger was getting first-hand information from inside one of Kenya’s most secure institutions, for onward publication on social media.
Whichever way you look at it, this reeks of a scheme to humiliate Mr Menya and, by extension, his employer,” the article reads in part.
“To a casual observer, this was just another titillating story that needed to set Facebook and Twitter afire, but when you start looking at it from the wider perspective of media freedom in Kenya and the regular assault on mainstream publishers within Kenya’s democratic space, you begin to see a worrying trend, ” the author says in the article.
Mr Menya is still in police custody but is expected to be released by 5pm today after Senior Principal Magistrate Martha Mutuku on Monday allowed a police request to hold him for one more day to allow investigators to gather more evidence.
So what exactly is happening in the Menya saga? is it a case of a crooked journalist caught in the act or that of a rogue police force being used by the system to silent whistleblowers?