Kenya: Victory for free Press as court reverses order

Press freedom won when a court dropped summons asking a reporter to disclose the source of her story.

Nairobi Resident Magistrate, Mr Felix Kombo, ruled that he had no jurisdiction to further pursue the summons against Ms Evelyn Kwamboka, as they were exhausted.

“I am persuaded issues touching on the child should be addressed by the Children’s Court and not myself. I cannot pursue the matter any further and the summons is considered exhausted. The summons stand discharged.”

This means Kwamboka will not take the witness stand and reveal the source of her story.

Story on baby adopted by German couple

On July 28, Kombo ordered The ‘Standard’ journalist to appear in court to reveal the source of her story carried under the heading “Deya miracle babies adopted by German couple“.

The ruling arose out of an application by the prosecution and defence lawyer in the “miracle babies” saga seeking to compel the journalist to disclose the source of her court story.

According to the article, one of the miracle babies at Nest Children’s Home, who is subject of a court case, had been given to a German couple.

The lawyers wanted Kwamboka to clarify whether the child she was referring to belonged to London-based televangelist, Bishop Gilbert Deya.

Professional code of conduct

Through lawyer Crispin Odhiambo, Kwamboka had objected to the move, saying journalists were not supposed to disclose the source of their stories due to their professional code of conduct.

But the magistrate declared that the courts were not bound by the journalists’ code of conduct, and that no gazetted code was presented before court stating that journalists should not be compelled to disclose the source of their stories.

“The allegations that a journalist cannot be compelled by the court to reveal the source of information has no foundation since they cannot be expected to seek refuge behind a code of conduct.”

“They should be accurate in what they report and be ready to reveal the same,” Kombo ruled.

Story sourced from public documents

Last week, Kwamboka’s lawyer, Mr Otiende Amollo, informed the court that it was not furnished with all the facts when it made the ruling against the journalist.

Kwamboka told the magistrate that she had filed a constitutional petition at the High Court and sworn an affidavit, which disclosed the source of her story.

“The affidavit has shown that the source of her story are public documents filed at the Children’s Court. I urge you to find that in view of the disclosure of the matter to which the story is related, the court has no jurisdiction to pursue the matter any further,” Otiende argued.

He further urged the court to rule that given the development, the summons requiring Kwamboka to take the witness stand and reveal her source of the story had been dealt with and she stood free in the matter, an application the State did not object to.

On Thursday, the court supported Kwamboka’s contention, and pointed out that had all matters been brought before it, the order that she discloses her informer would have been different.

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