Thousands of Kenyans took to the streets Tuesday to protest against last week's government-led raid of the privately owned Standard Media Group's television station and newspaper printing presses. Calls are growing for the resignation of the country's president and some top officials.
The crowd wound its way through downtown Nairobi's streets, stopping in front of the offices of President Mwai Kibaki, National Security Minister John Michuki, parliament and other places.
At these locations, top officials of the opposition group Orange Democratic Movement, which organized the event, addressed the swelling yet peaceful crowd, urging the government to respect press freedom.
Many protestors chanted and carried placards urging Michuki to resign for his role in ordering the recent raid.
In the early hours of last Thursday, up to 100 hooded police stormed the offices of the Kenya Television Network, shutting down transmission, taking computers, tapes, and other equipment, and briefly detaining four journalists.
Police then stormed the presses of the daily newspaper The Standard, destroying equipment and setting thousands of newspapers on fire.
Following the raid, Michuki admitted that the government was behind the action.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, police spokesman Jaspher 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.
Ombati accused Standard journalists of accepting bribes to write articles as part of this alleged action.
But most Kenyans do not see it Ombati's way. Protestor Samuel Odoyo describes to VOA what he says was a heavy-handed way to silence dissent.
"That's why we are here: to tell the world that we are supposed to get information as and when we need it," he said. "I think the press should be given much freedom to know even what you keep under your bed. It [the raid]) is telling us that we are going back to old days when you were not supposed to talk about anything except [what] the government was supposed to say, and whatever the government says is final."
After the march in town, opposition politicians, media officials, civil society representatives, and others addressed the crowd in Nairobi's Uhuru Park.
The speakers condemned the raid, with many calling for the resignations of President Kibaki and National Security Minister Michuki and the holding of snap elections.
Last Thursday's raid was the second crackdown against The Standard group in recent weeks. Three Standard journalists were arrested earlier last week over a story alleging that President Kibaki met with former minister and senior opposition politician Kalonzo Musyoka.
The week before, police raided the offices of a tabloid called Weekly Citizen in response to a negative report about the president.