Sunday, February 3, 2008



This is the real Martha karua,- MP for Gichugu.

Kenyan cabinet minister sues over caricature

By John Kamau and Patrick Gathara.
Joe Szabo contributed to this article

Just as the "Political Challenges Facing Africa" exhibition along with a series of successful workshops organized by the Association of East African Cartoonists ended in Nairobi, their very precious freedom of expression suffered a setback when a minister exposed her insecurity and turned to seek legal remedy regarding her portrayal in the local media.

Water Resources Minister Martha Karua’s net of grievances against the media has extended to the realm of the creative.

In what could be a first for freedom of expression litigation in the country, Karua has sued over a caricature of her that appeared in the April 25 issue of Penknife, a satirical pull-out of the East African Standard.

Penknife, originally an independent satirical weekly, now appears as a supplement to the East African Standard. The creator and producer of Penknife is Communicating Artists Ltd., an alliance involving four of Kenya's elite cartoonists: Gado, Frank, Madd and Kham.

Karua contends that the humorous caricature depicted her as “unfair to the media, which is unfair and derogatory to me.”

“You show me as I confront the media, I am standing on live wire with 10,000 degrees centigrade hot (sic),” she complains.

“This caricature is not only derogatory and intended to injure my credit and reputation, but is also intended to trash my right to pursue legal redress. It is an aggravation of the various libelous matters I am pursuing you for in court, and constitutes fresh libel,” says the Gichugu MP.

The minister also took issue with the headline, ‘Boiling Hot,’ and claims that suggestions in the cartoon that she has teamed “up with my colleague the honourable Minister for Information to muzzle the press when the truth of the matter is that I am pursuing my rights in court” are “false and malicious.”

The minister has also threatened to sue the Sunday Standard over a separate comment entitled ‘Iron lady Martha’s tit for tat’, published in the same April 25 issue, which she said contained excerpts “which are false, malicious and defamatory”

She says: “You may also wish to know that I am also pursuing Benson Riungu’s “Back Peepers” and “Benson’s World” of the same Sunday Standard.”

She does not stop there. Another of her plethora of suits and threats relates to a comment by “Media Maverick” columnist Kodi Barth citing views posted on the Internet about her conflict with Kiss FM. The column had stated that most of the commentators on the Internet “took a swipe at her abrasive temperament and failure to cut out the figure of a role model.”

In her letter, Karua says “It is my considered view that these words are defamatory in that they purport to present the falsehoods broadcasts by Kiss FM as true, thus repeating the libel.” “Further, it portrays the public as having overwhelmingly condemned me which is not true and is calculated to further injure my credit, standing and reputation in society. The article further paints me unjustifiably and maliciously as lacking in decency and morality.”

The minister also took issue with an article on March 25, which posed a question: “What was Ms Martha Karua doing calling Kiss FM names?”

Ms Karua has filed an unprecedented number of suits against various media houses for allegedly defaming her since a carjacking incident involving her and Catholic priest, Fr. Dominic Wamugunda, which was exclusively broken by the Sunday Standard.

There was a lot of public speculation that the two were having an affair since noon could explain why the Minister had dispensed with her official car and security detail. This all came to a head when the Minister sued a local FM station (Kiss FM) for alleged defamation. The case is still in court.

The Information Minister, Raphael Tuju, then set up a panel to investigate complaints against the station, but many of those invited to be members (including the MDs of both the Nation and E.A. Standard and the Sec-General of the Kenya Union of Journalists) declined. There was widespread condemnation of the minister's move and a court injunction was obtained by
Kiss FM stopping the panel from holding hearings. Hon. Tuju proceeded to ignore the court order (claiming that the panel was an "advisory" one and that the court had no power to stop him taking advice) while at the same time paradoxically asking the Attorney-General to appeal the ruling.

The KUJ has called on Hon. Karua to withdraw her suit against Kiss FM and, jointly with the Association of East African Cartoonists (KATUNI), plans to hold a press conference on her latest threats.

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