Azimio la Umoja - One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga has condemned the move by the government to block the media from covering the exhumation of bodies from Shakahola forest in Malindi, Kilifi county.
The police had on Wednesday denied journalists access to the 800-acre land where the authorities are exhuming bodies of persons believed to have died in a religious cult. The police said the forest is a disturbed area and a crime scene.
Addressing Azimio supporters in Kibra, Nairobi, on Friday, Raila asked the state to allow the media to document the exhumation as well as the rescue operation in the forest.
"The ongoing probe in Shakahola can not continue without the media. We don't want them to stop journalists from going there," Raila said moments after jetting back into the country after a one-week trip in Dubai.
"We want journalists to be allowed to document everything in Shakahola."
While linking First Lady Rachel Ruto and Second Lady Dorcas Gachagua to pastors arrested in connection with mysterious deaths in the country, Raila said President William Ruto "must take responsibility for the Shakahola massacre".
"Don't talk about Pastor Mackenzie. We don't know him. We don't know Ezekiel. They are children. Their father is inside State House.
"What is happening in Shakahola is something never seen before. We strongly condemn the acts and ask Ruto to take responsibility for the massacre," Raila said adding that the international community should be involved in the investigations.
On her part, Azimio co-principal Martha Karua said the media should be allowed to cover the operation to avoid cover-up.
The Shakahola land is allegedly owned by controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie, who is said to have forced his followers to fast to death with a promise of meeting Jesus. At least 100 bodies have been exhumed from the piece of land and dozens rescued even as police continue to detain pastor Mackenzie over the deaths.
The Media Council of Kenya yesterday also asked the state to allow the media to continue covering the operation in Shakahola forest, saying that it is through the media that the shocking happenings in Malindi were brought to light.
“Denying the media access to report on such a matter of public interest will open the floodgates of misinformation, rumours and confusion to the whole country. It violates the principles of press freedom and the right to information. We call for establishment of a media centre®ular press briefings on site to ensure media access &dissemination of accurate information to Kenyans,” MCK said in a tweet.
Denying the media access to report on such a matter of public interest will open the floodgates of misinformation, rumours and confusion to the whole country. It violates the principles of press freedom and the right to information. 2/3 pic.twitter.com/TTdbcHJx6E— Media Council of Kenya (@MediaCouncilK) April 27, 2023