Famous veteran Kenyan journalist Gideon Mulaki has died. He passed on at his Ikutha rural home in Kitui County on Friday evening after a short illness. Mr Mulaki is one of the journalists who fought for press freedom.
He rose through the ranks from a cub reporter to a news editor with the Daily Nation, covering major events in the 1980s, including the famous Andrew Muthemba treason trial, the 1982 coup attempt and the Njonjo Judicial Commission of Inquiry, among others.
According to his son Kyalo Mulaki, his father developed breathing complications late Friday afternoon before he died. His body was moved to Mutomo Level Four Hospital mortuary in Kitui South.
Mr Mulaki is best known for his courage and bold reporting in the 1980s that saw him at one point arrested from the newsroom and detained by the then dreaded Special Branch Unit, which the Kanu government used to crush ‘dissents’ in the country.
He was arrested in May 1981 alongside Joe Kadhi, the then managing editor of Daily Nation, chief sub-editor the late Philip Ochieng’ and reporter Pius Nyamora, at the behest of the late President Daniel Moi.
They were picked up by then Assistant Commissioner of Police Joginder Singh Sokhi at 4pm in May 1981 and locked up for the entire weekend at Lang’ata Police Station, for allegedly publishing a story on the doctors’ strike, which referred to a statement from Kanu as ‘anonymous’.
President Moi had complained that theDaily Nation story was tantamount to slandering the party leadership since it questioned the authenticity of the Kanu statement.
“Kanu is the ruling party. It is the government and, therefore, my voice. How then can the publishers of the Nation imagine the views of the party are anonymous? They also want to say that Moi is anonymous.” the late president said before the journalists were arrested.
TheDaily Nationran a front page apology a day after the journalists were freed from police custody.
“We now recognise and accept that our use of the word “anonymous” was due to human error and was wrong and uncalled for. There was absolutely no intention on our part to question the Kanu statement or to doubt its authenticity or to question the position of His Excellency the President as President of the ruling party.”
Former Nation editorial director Wangethi Mwangi who worked with Mr Mulaki eulogized him as one of the journalists who had a taste of Moi dictatorship first-hand, and prolific writer.
“He was a fine guy, very meticulous in his reporting and had an extensive network of sources which came in handy getting us exclusive stories and
scoops” said Mr Wangethi.
Mr Martin Masai, a former editor with defunct Kenya Times recalled an incident in Machakos when Mr Mulaki confronted former Eastern Provincial Commissioner John Etemesi for attacking the press at a Kanu rally addressed by President Moi in 1987.
The PC (now deceased) had told the president that the Machakos Kanu branch was united behind their new chairman Mulu Mutisya except two Kamba journalists (Mulaki and Masai) whose problem with party elections wasn’t known.
“Mr Mulaki saw this as an unwarranted attack on the media and walked up to PC Etemesi – then a powerful government official, and told him to stop lying to the president in public” said Mr Masai adding the country has lost a brilliant journalist.
Former Nation news editor Eric Shimoli also mourned Mulaki as the sober quiet editor who was also known for his love of Kaunda suits.
Mr Mulaki would later be appointed the chief parliamentary reporter where he served until 1986, before being posted to Mombasa as the Coast Bureau Chief. He was later moved to Nairobi and appointed the news editor where he served until his retirement.