KENYA: Mass resignation of columnists rocks Daily Nation newspaper

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DiA’s Nic Cheeseman and seven other columnists from Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper today resigned their positions in protest at growing censorship and the silencing of critical voices.

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The decision of the columnists – many of whom have been writing for the newspaper for many years – to resign comes after a number of journalists and columnists were sacked or had their contracts not renewed, including the cartoonist Gado and the editor Denis Galava.

In many cases, journalists have been silenced, and stories spiked, following pressure from the ruling party, which is growing increasingly intolerant of dissent. The BBC covered the story here.

This is the full statement outlining the reasons for the mass resignation, with the signatures of those who supported it:

THIS ONE

Nic’s personal resignation letter (not to be confused with the group statement)to his editor at the newspaper follows:

27 MARCH 2018
— LETTER OF RESIGNATION —

Dear XXX,

I hope this finds you well.

I just wanted to write to say that I was sorry I could not let you know earlier about my resignation this morning. I am sure you can understand why.

I am also sorry that we will not be working together any more. As you know, I greatly respect you and we have always had an excellent working relationship. My resignation is not a reflection on that, and so I feel I owe you an explanation.

Our decision to leave is rooted in a deep belief that something has to be done to save an institution with as proud a history and as significant an impact on Kenyan political life as the Daily Nation. Our resignation may not be enough to reverse the trend away from critical and engaged journalism – indeed, I am fairly sure that it will not be – but we had to try.

It is not just the sacking of Denis Galava or the contracts not being renewed for David Ndii and Gado. It is not just the fact that my piece was not published in the main newspaper last weekend, or that certain elements that mention departed Nation colleagues were removed. And it is not just the publication of a fake obituary for Jimmi Wanjigi, or the fact that certain stories are being spiked or watered down.

Any one of these things could have been excused or put down to a mistake. But all of these things together tell a far more worrying story, and one that we cannot ignore. I suspect that many Nation employees feel the same, and that some would leave with us, if they could afford to.

That said, I am very sad to be going. I have loved writing for the Nation, and I wish I could continue to do so. But recently I have been thinking about what I will say in years to come when people ask me what I did in the struggle for civil liberties and media freedom in Kenya, and my answer cannot just be: “I kept writing”.

In my columns I often demand that people uphold democratic standards and live by their own principles. As someone that talks the talk – and talks quite so much – I must also be willing to walk the walk.

I hope that you will understand the reasons for my resignation, even though you may not agree with it, and that we will get to work together one day.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but sometimes it is most powerful when you put it down.

See you on the other side,

Nic

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