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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 14:07 GMT
Kenya reporter's gunpoint detention
Freelance journalist Argwings Odera was arrested during the raid by armed and masked security agents on Kenya's Standard media group offices in the capital, Nairobi. He told the BBC about his experience.

Newspapers burning outside the Standards offices
Masked men burnt Thursday's edition of The Standard

Around midnight I observed a strange thing around the Standard offices premises in town. I saw about four flying squad vans with officers armed to the teeth.

I also saw about four Land rovers meant to contain prisoners and another two meant for cargo and 12 unmarked expensive new cars parked alongside the street.

I was very curious so I decided to contact the editor of the Standard to see if he was aware of what was going on.

I told him to look through his window towards the city market. He told me to see what was happening before he sent others.

My initial thought was that commercial sex workers were being arrested.

'This is a prisoner'

I was talking with security guards at the office premises, who said they thought the men were state forces as they didn't look like policemen.

I'm scared to collect my phone; yet it is everything for me - it's my bread and butter.

As I was talking one of these men approached and said: "Hey I recognise you from television. Do you work for KTN (Kenyan Television Network)?"

I explained that I was a freelancer, which meant I can write for anybody.

He said in Swahili: "Ndiye huyu mabusa," which means "This is a prisoner".

He pulled me and tossed me into one of the white vans where I found three members of staff from KTN: two technicians and a lady.

After waiting an hour we were then transported to police headquarters in Nairobi and were kept until around 0430 or 0500 in the morning.

Anger

Our telephones were confiscated from us at gunpoint and we had to remove our belts and shoes as is customary for Kenyan prisoners who are being incarcerated on suspicion of any crime.

Scattered newspapers after the police raid
Staff at The Standard were beaten and forced to lie on the floor

During our detention the officers wanted to know most importantly who owned the Standard. They said that even if I claim I'm a freelance journalist I must know the person I'm writing for.

I explained that to the best of my knowledge the Standard group is a public company listed on the stock exchange, which appeared to make the man angry as if I was hiding something.

Then he turned to the technicians and demanded to know how to dismantle KTN's broadcast services and how to dismantle the printing press.

At this point I began to wonder if the president was OK.

Favourite author

I had once visited him in his office and we had exchanged notes on the author Jeffrey Archer, whom we both enjoyed reading.

And I just couldn't believe that this kind of man could set a whole squad of armed officers to escort a journalist with a notebook and a pen, as if I was a main corruption suspect.

I don't know why we were released. I asked the officer in charge of the operation what I had done wrong - how I had offended the state so that I don't want to repeat it again.

He said he was only acting on instructions and as far as he was concerned I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After our release the police kept our phones and told us to come back for them later.

But I'm scared, I'm on my own. I don't have corporate backing and can't afford a lawyer; yet the phone is everything for me - it's my bread and butter.



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