The Kenya – New York Times saga continues. For those of who haven’t had a chance to follow, here’s a recap:
- The New York Times published a scathing article and critique of the International Criminal Court’s intervention in Kenya (see here for some highlights and my thoughts on the piece). It was particularly critical of the role of former ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and the cases against senior members of the Kenyan government — cases which, as readers will know, ultimately all collapsed.
- The office of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (who was among those charged by the ICC but eventually had his case dismissed), released a statement in which it claimed that described the New York Times’ article as “vindictive and unprofessional”. It further asserted that the author, James Verini, did not reach out to the government for its side of the story.
- In response, the New York Times published a statement in the Kenyan media, defending its story, refusing to apologize, and insisting that the government was given every opportunity to contribute to the piece — but declined or ignored requests to do so.
- While President Kenyatta is on an official visit to Botswana, he “suspended” four members of his communications staff, apparently as a result of their initial response to the New York Times’ piece. Dennis Itumbi, one of the suspended members of Kenyatta’s communications staff, tweeted that they “were fired because they told off a paper that claimed President Uhuru bribed witnesses.”
That brings us to today. Kenyan media is reporting that Itumbi is threatening to sue the New York Times. Itumbi, Kenyatta’s director of digital innovations and diaspora communications, was named in Verini’s account as someone who had been “investigated (though not charged)” by the ICC over alleged witness interference. In its defence of Verini’s exposé, the New York Times insisted that “Itumbi’s investigation by the International Criminal Court is a matter of public record. As Verini’s article notes, he was not charged.” Now, according The Star, Itumbi is seeking legal action against the Times:
Dennis Itumbi has given the New York Times a seven-day ultimatum for an apology over remarks in an article about the President’s ICC case…
…He asked the media house to apologise or face a defamation suit over making references to him in the article, saying he was not interviewed.
In a letter to the media house on Thursday, Itumbi’s lawyers said the “offending words” were false since their client was not interrogated on any subject.
“You did not contact our client to comment on the issue contrary to your assertions. Your publication was therefore malicious and part of your sustained policy and your self-serving vendetta,” said lawyer Moses Chelanga.
Chelanga said the publication was calculated to disparage and injure Itumbi’s reputation and cause him scandal, odium and contempt in his personal capacity.
He said the Times portrayed Itumbi as one who interfered with the ICC witnesses protection programme.
He also said the media house made it seem the former director “exposed ICC witnesses; killed, abducted and enforced disappearance of ICC witnesses; bribed ICC witnesses; interfered with administration of justice; sabotaged the situation of the Republic of Kenya in the ICC [and] is corrupt.”
The lawyer said his client’s reputation and status as a long-standing public servant have been seriously damaged.
“He has suffered considerable distress and embarrassment to himself, his career, his calling, and his family,” said Chelanga.