I am writing this from the cold confines of my work station at the Daily Nation head offices in Nairobi. With print copies of my home papers not easy to come by, I have been hooked unto the net for the online versions and this morning, the headline that immediately caught my attention, just after logging unto the Monitor website was, “Bunyoro: Police grill Monitor editor”.
The long and short of the story was that top detectives had for over six hours on Wednesday grilled my boss, Daniel Kalinaki, the managing editor, over the publication of a letter by President Museveni that basically was calling for alienation of immigrant communities in the elective politics of Bunyoro region. This region has lately been discovered to be rich in oil, and the State is trying to make love overtures to it.
What followed the publication was a general public furor, with a bigger section of the population accusing the President of sowing seeds of discord and tribalism. Leaders of the immigrants in Bunyoro have subsequently written to the President and disputed his assertions. Some have threatened to sue him for high treason!
And trying to dodge the tempest, the high powers have moved to crack down on the messenger. I have it on good authority that the Daily Monitor sourced that document from a very reliable source; it is not in doubt that what the paper ran was an authentic document circulated by the President to his presidency minister, Beatrice Wabudeya, who is heading a team trying to “correct the historical ills of Bunyoro”.
The President’s cocoon now is to claim that the document was adulterated and that simple spelling mistakes occurred in the Monitor version. He also claims that the document was confidential and never meant for public consumption! What State House cannot contest is the fact that Museveni penned a document whose details were largely captured by the Monitor report. In fact some of his minions from Bunyoro, like Minister Matia Kasaija, have come out with blazing guns to back that position.
You would expect the President, in this charged atmosphere, to come out and defend his position; for I believe he had pretty good reasons for writing what he wrote. Why then employ his terror machine on innocent relayers of information? Is this not an admission of faulty thinking on his part? Has he finally realised that what he was saying was foolhardy? Or is he, in his mistaken thoughts convinced that he can stop the wheel of truth and debate by threatening professional journalists?
In these summons and harassment of my boss, I gain a sense of personal relief and gratification. Many people have tried to mudsling the Monitor by claiming it is a sell-out after its majority ownership was taken over by the Aga Khan. Others have tried to ridicule us, considering how young our newsroom is. Others have tried to give an impression that we were silenced when it comes to sticky issues regarding the presidency.
But once again, we have demonstrated that we still cherish the core values for which our paper was founded. We have sent a clear message to the public that nothing is too hot to handle, even if it involves the presidency. We have proved that we shall continue setting the agenda despite how “young or unexposed” we are. It is why we broke the Temangalo story and exposed the daylight misuse of power and influence. It is why we brought to light the freedom Lt. Magara was enjoying even as families of those he shot, maimed and killed were wallowing in misery. And it is why we stayed on it until justice was seen to be done. It is why one of our journalists, Moses Akena, was detained this week for refusing to be used as a state pawn in a hopeless political contest. It is why the press association yesterday demanded that former IGG Faith Mwondha be investigated for detaining our photojournalist, Stephen Otage.
The bottom line is that we believe in fairness but never silence.
And that will continue, even if it means handcuffing us at the altar of truth. It was the determination I read in Mr Kalinaki’s text that he sent me the night before his quizzing, saying he was not cowed by the CID summons. No believer in truth and press freedom should!