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Times Africa correspondent deported from Kenya said his expulsion ‘smacks of press intimidation’

By Freddy Mayhew

Times journalist Jerome Starkey has said his detention and subsequent deportation from Kenya “smacks of intimidation of the press”.

Starkey, who is the newspaper’s Africa Correspondent, said he believed somebody “very powerful” had made the decision to expel him from the country, where he has lived since 2012.

He tweeted about his detention at Jomo Kentayya Airport in Nairobi on Thursday before being released and immediately deported the following day.

Speaking to local news channel Kenya NTV by web link on the weekend, Starkey said Kenya’s immigration staff would only tell him there was a “security block” on his passport that had been flagged up by security services.

He said: “Clearly though when a country like Kenya, when a government chooses to detain and expel and accredited journalist from a well-known international news organisation who has been living in the country for a number of years with no explanation then that smacks of intimidation of the press.

“It certainly gives me the impression, it certainly gives me the fear, that somebody somewhere is unhappy with something I have written or something they have though I was about to write and they are trying to stop me from doing that.”

Starkey said his two-year work permit had expired before his arrival and that he had already applied for a replacement, but that British Nationals are allowed a three-month visa upon arrival in Kenya.

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He shared a picture of his detention cell and claimed his phone was later confiscated in a series of tweets on Thursday night.

Starkey said he was interviewed by authorities but only one gave their identity and job title when asked: a member of the anti-terror police unit who then took his mugshot.

He added: “It was incredibly strange and very unsettling but I have to say the people I dealt with, the individuals from the immigrations services, were almost all of them unfailingly polite and professional.

“As they often reminded me, they were just following orders. What’s of concern in … like this is who is giving the orders and what’s doubly concerning is nobody seems to be taking responsibility for what’s happened.

“he immigrations department haven’t said that it’s their decision. They only said that it was an issue with my work permit.

“The police came forward and said it was not at their behest… and yet clearly somebody very high up in government, somebody very powerful, had made a decision before I took off from Amsterdam that I wasn’t to be allowed into the country.

“When I did land that decision was put into place but at no point was I given any opportunity to even know what allegations or what charges or what suspicions were being laid against me and I didn’t have any chance to defend against them.”

A spokesman for the British High Commission in Kenya told NTV: “We provided consular assistance to a British national at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi.”

Amnesty International has condemned Kenya’s actions, saying: “Journalism is not a crime”, Press Association reported.

Arriving in London, Mr Starkey tweeted: “Phew! Sailed through customs at Heathrow this morning. Guess HMG doesn’t take Kenya’s ‘red-flag’ security warnings all that seriously.”

After Starkey’s arrest, Rono Burnei, the deputy police chief in charge of all Kenyan airports, said he had been held over immigration issues.

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