Elijah Kinyanjui

Nakuru journalist Elijah Kinyanjui. He was charged by a court for misuse of a telecommunication gadget (Photo: Facebook).

By Lorna Abuga.

A Nakuru journalist has been arraigned in court for misuse “a licensed telecommunication system.”

The court under the precision of Resident Magistrate Maroro Mokaya was told that on June 2 this year Elijah Kinyanjui by means of a licensed telecommunication equipment allegedly posted hate speech that “defamed” former Nakuru Mayor Mohammed Suraw. According to the Prosecution the accused posted the message on a Whatsapp page.

“The accused wrote and posted an open letter which was addressed to the President claiming that the town was taken over by strangers and in this case he was referring to the complainant,”

Kinyanjui’s charge sheet partly read.

The Prosecution further argues that Kinyanjui defamed Suraw by referring to him as evil.

“The accused person referred to the complainant as evil because he purportedly bribed his way to the Governor’s (Kinuthia Mbugua) administration officials and consequently grabbed land belonging to Naka primary school which he was intending to develop.”

In May this year a section of Nakuru residents raised issues with the alleged grabbing of land at Naka, an area on the outskirts of Nakuru town, and whose ownership is in dispute. There have been claims that the land is public and belongs to Naka primary and at one time pupils of the school and their parents are reported to have brought down a perimeter wall that had been erected at the land.

Kinyanjui, is believed to have been part of the residents who raised issues on the land hence his Whatsapp post. Following the post which appeared on ‘Nakuru Analysts’ – the Whatsapp page, Kinyanjui was interrogated by police and his phone confiscated by detectives. However it was returned after the detectives remained with it for close to two months.

On Friday July 24 Kinyanjui denied the charges and was released on a cash bail of sh20,000 as his case was set for hearing on August 6.

According to the Kenya Information and Communication Act, it is an offense to misuse a “telecommunication system.”

“A person who by means of a licensed telecommunication system, sends a message or other matter that is grossly offensive of an indecent, obscene or menacing character commits an offense,” reads Article 29 of the Act.

The same article further states a person who

“sends a message that he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another person,”

also commits a crime.

Such a person

“shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand shillings, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both,”

the Article states.

But analysts feel that this particular article is vague and so far it has been challenged in court. It will also be noted the there was an outcry from a wide section of players in the Media industry in the country about the Information and Communication Act with many arguing that it has section that can lead to interference of their work.

Other journalists and bloggers such as Kinyanjui who have been pursued for their posts on social media include, Geoffrey Andare, Abraham Mutai, Robert Alai and Wahome Thuku.