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Kenya: storm over minister who called journalists "prostitutes"

Kenya: storm over minister who called journalists "prostitutes"
Kenyan journalists hold signs during a protest against a controversial bill that they say would allow the government to control the press in Nairobi on December 3, 2013.   -  
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Kenya's Minister of Commerce was in turmoil on Wednesday after publicly denigrating a media group, accusing it of working for the opposition and calling its journalists "prostitutes".

The opposition and journalists' associations called for a boycott of the minister, Moses Koria, saying that after these statements he was not worthy of working for the state.

At a public event on Sunday, Mr. Koria attacked the Nation Media Group (NMG), one of the largest media groups in East Africa and owned by the Aga Khan.

In particular, he threatened to sack any government official who did business with NMG, questioning whether the latter was a media group "or an opposition party".

In a tweet published in Swahili, he also referred to the "prostitutes of the Aga Khan", in reference to the group's journalists, claiming that they had "admitted to being forced by their superiors and management to write anti-government articles as part of a scheme funded by a former president".

NMG reacted by pointing out that the minister's diatribe came after one of its channels, NTV, broadcast an investigative report on Sunday about a possible import scandal within Mr. Koria's ministry.

Mr. Koria's "gratuitous verbal attack" is "not only unworthy of a public servant of his caliber, it is also an attack on press freedom, the cornerstone of democracy", reacted the Daily Nation, one of the country's leading dailies and owned by NMG, in an editorial on Tuesday.

An opposition senator, Edwin Sifuna, tabled a motion of censure against Mr. Koria this week, pointing out that attacks on one media outlet "often lead to attacks on press freedom in general".

On Wednesday, members of opposition leader Raila Odinga's party walked out of a session of the Senate to protest Mr. Koria's arrival and the fact that they were not allowed to ask him questions.

"I will not apologise", Mr. Koria, who has been in the spotlight this week after signing a major trade agreement with the European Union on behalf of his country, told reporters on Wednesday.

The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) said the minister had become "a symbol of national shame", while the country's Media Owners Association said his comments disqualified him "from holding any public office".

President William Ruto, who narrowly won last year's presidential election against Mr. Odinga, has in the past accused the media of biased coverage against him.

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