Kiambu County Police Commander Ali Nuno has ordered an investigation into an incident in which policemen roughed up journalists who were covering a case at the Thika Law Courts.
Nuno told the scribes to report to the Kiambu Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters on Wednesday, October 19, and record statements over the incident in which the officers manning the law courts briefly detained the scribes for taking pictures inside the court compound.
Responding to a complaint by the journalists who were manhandled by his officers from Thika and Juja police stations, Nuno said action will be taken on those found culpable.
The five reporters included K24 TV’s Francis Kilango, Kameme FM’s Rose Mwangi, Kenya News Agency’s Daniel Mugo, People Daily’s Oliver Musembi and an intern, Ann Macharia. They were following up a case in which court orderlies were accused of colluding with court clerks to extort bribes from litigants.
The officers frog-marched the reporters and snatched from them cameras, recorders, phones and media badges before other policemen intervened. Kilango's trouser was torn in the process.
A member of the Law Society of Kenya, Thika Chapter, Wakahu Mbugua faulted the officers for harassing journalists while on duty, terming it an infringement of the freedom of the press.
He also raised concern over delays by the courts to take pleas from accused persons which he said often leads to some court clerks taking advantage and demandig bribes so as to expedite the processing of bond.
"We have had many occasions where pleas are taken after 1 pm instead of morning hours. This limits the time of processing the release of the accused on bond and as the time runs out, they are prone to part with whatever they are told so as not to go to remand," Wakahu said.
One of the complainants, Amos Kibe, whose barmaid Doreen Kathambi had been charged with selling after hours claimed that he was asked to part with Sh10,000 by police officers from Juja Sub-County so that a Sh200,000 cash bail imposed on the accused could be reduced to a "reasonable amount."
Kibe, who is also the county secretary for Kiambu Bar Owners Association, claimed that police at the Juja Police Station were notorious for arresting bar workers on trumped-up charges and demanding bribes to release them.
"We have complained to the authorities on numerous occasions after being subjected to harassment by these policemen. The officers operate with impunity and seem to be running a kangaroo court in which those who part with bribes are freed and those who fail end up in court over fabricated charges," Kibe said.
He said bar owners could hardly afford to pay bribes as many have been hit hard by the seven-month closure of their businesses due to the Covid-19 pandemic containment measures.