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Hooded Police Raid Kenyan Media Offices


Hooded police in Kenya have raided the privately owned Standard media group's television offices and newspaper printing presses.

The managing editor of the Kenya Television Network, Farida Karoney, describes to VOA the raid that took place at her station at around midnight.

"Just after we finished doing our late-night news, a group of about between 50 and 100 people - they were hooded and armed - forced their way into our offices," she said. "They demanded to be taken to the transmission studio, from where they asked the transmission crew to shut down the transmitter."

"Then they took our back-up computer, the computer that has programs for the day and also took the tape - usually we back up the tape," continued Karoney. "They also took the day's commercial line-up, and they took the power back-up system. Then they demanded to be taken to the KTN newsroom from where they took away all the computers."

The police detained four KTN staff members in a police station for two hours before releasing them.

The station had stopped transmitting in the morning, but was back on air by the afternoon. Karoney says reporters are writing their stories by hand and improvising in other ways to make up for the equipment loss.

In the early hours, police also stormed the presses of the daily newspaper The Standard, destroying equipment and setting thousands of newspapers on fire.

Throughout the day, opposition politicians, human rights groups, media organizations, and Kenyans calling into talk shows denounced the raids, accusing the government of brutally snuffing out press freedom in a way not seen for more than 20 years.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon police spokesman Jasper Ombati said police raided the offices to collect what he says was evidence about an intended action to stir up ethnic hatred that would have posed a major threat to national security.

He accused Standard journalists of accepting bribes to write articles as part of this alleged action.

This is the second crackdown against the Standard group in recent days.

Three Standard journalists were arrested earlier this week over a story alleging that President Mwai Kibaki met with former minister and senior opposition politician Kalonzo Musyoka.

Last week, police raided the offices of a tabloid called Weekly Citizen in response to a negative report about the president.

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