KENYA–Irate over reports that downplayed the Kenyan government’s bout with “insurgency,” officials threatened in late March to expel three American journalists reporting on human rights conditions in the African country.
Stephen Buckley of The Washington Post, Joshua Hammer of Newsweek and Andrew Purvis of Time all had reported that Kenya President Daniel arap Moi was diverting attention from the country’s political problems when he announced that a small group known as the “February 18th Movement” was trying to overthrow the government.
Information Minister Johnstone Makau said in a press conference in Nairobi that the articles were “outrageous lies and deliberate distortion[s]” of events.
Following the charges, representatives of all three publications met to discuss the situation. Newsweek and Time spokespersons said in late March that they stood behind the reports. A Washington Post representative was unavailable for comment.
Rick Hornik, Time’s deputy chief of foreign correspondents, said the government never stated in writing that they wanted the journalists expelled. Rather, officials demanded that they apologize for the reports.
But Hammer and Purvis told the Associated Press they would not apologize and re-emphasized their belief that the insurgency likely would not threaten Kenya.
“I stand by what I wrote,” Hammer told AP. “Leading Kenya politicians and Western diplomats were unanimous in their assertions that the guerrilla movement was a gross exaggeration concocted by the government.”
Hornik said Time instructed Purvis to tell disgruntled government leaders to write a letter explaining any portions of the story of which they disapproved, and the magazine would investigate their assertions.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter told reporters he asked Kenya not to expel the journalists while on a nine-day tour of African countries. Carter had warned that such an act could hurt the country’s “human rights reputation,” the AP reported.
As of April 1, Kenya had not taken any action against the correspondents.
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