The Star newspaper has been ordered to apologise to President Uhuru Kenyatta for publishing an offensive article against him.
The Media Council Complaints Commission also directed that the apology be published in the Star’s online edition for seven days.
The commission further ordered the article, authored by columnist Jerry Okungu, pulled from the newspaper’s website.
“Accordingly, we order that the counsels for both parties to agree on the draft statement offering the apologies to President Kenyatta within the next 14 days,” read the ruling delivered by Grace Katasi.
The commission, that also comprises Murej Mak Ochieng and Peter Mwaura, however, declined to grant other orders sought by the President such as damages saying the issue was not within its jurisdiction.
The commission also reprimanded the newspaper and the author for ‘vilifying’ the President and failing to respect his reputation, which was in breach of the law.
The commission revealed that arising from this, it will issue a statement of public reprimand to be “published in at least two newspapers of wide circulation.”
The commissioners ruled that anyone aggrieved by the orders to appeal within the next 14 days.
The ruling arose from a complaint filed by President Kenyatta to the council that an article titled “What if Uhuru, Ruto Win” was not only offensive and biased, but was also in breach of the law on accuracy and fairness.
The newspaper and the writer, he argued, failed to maintain the Code of Conduct in breach of Section 35(2) of the Act.
Mr Kenyatta complained that the article was provocative and alarming, saying that the newspaper and the writer failed to exercise decency and integrity in publishing the article in breach of Article 3 (Integrity) of the Code.
In their defence, the two respondents argued that the publication did not offend Section 35(1) of the Media Act that requires the media to inform the public on issues of public interest in a fair, accurate and unbiased manner.
The commission said the headline of the article was neither provocative nor alarming.
It said that at the time of publishing the article, there was no ethnic, religious or sectarian conflict.