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Magistrate forces journalists to pay to access court file

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A Malindi magistrate today ordered journalists to pay Ksh100 in cash to access a court file for a news story.  Resident Magistrate Ms Wandia Nyamu told the journalists to write a formal letter to her requesting authority to peruse a court file or charge sheets to be approved upon payment of Ksh100.

The journalists obeyed the order and paid the Ksh100 at KCB Mtaani located at the court and were given an official receipt, which enabled them access the court files.  The magistrate warned the journalists against perusing court files before parting with the requisite payment adding it was illegal to do so.

The directive shocked journalists, who thought they were being being forced to buy the news at Ksh100 per file, a rather bizarre and expensive news source.

Journalists were drawn from Daily Nation newspaper, The Star, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation TV and the Kenya News Agency (KNA).

Accredited journalists are usually granted free access to court files and records even in the main courts in Nairobi. According to a journalist who has covered courts for Daily Nation and Standard newspaper for many years, the only condition is “you can’t leave with the file.”

He said they are usually allowed to peruse files and make notes or even take shots of some pages. Lawyers and litigants are charged a certain fee to access court files.

[crp]

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