Dennis Itumbi has given the New York Times a seven-day ultimatum for an apology over remarks in an article about the President’s ICC case.
Itumbi, the director of digital innovations and diaspora communications in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s office, was suspended on Wednesday.
He asked the media house to apologise or face a defamation suit over making references to him in the article, saying he was not interviewed.
In a letter to the media house on Thursday, Itumbi’s lawyers said the “offending words” were false since their client was not interrogated on any subject.
“You did not contact our client to comment on the issue contrary to your assertions. Your publication was therefore malicious and part of your sustained policy and your self-serving vendetta,” said lawyer Moses Chelanga.
Chelanga said the publication was calculated to disparage and injure Itumbi’s reputation and cause him scandal, odium and contempt in his personal capacity.
He said the Times portrayed Itumbi as one who interfered with the ICC witnesses protection programme.
He also said the media house made it seem the former director “exposed ICC witnesses; killed, abducted and enforced disappearance of ICC witnesses; bribed ICC witnesses; interfered with administration of justice; sabotaged the situation of the Republic of Kenya in the ICC [and] is corrupt.”
The lawyer said his client’s reputation and status as a long-standing public servant have been seriously damaged.
“He has suffered considerable distress and embarrassment to himself, his career, his calling, and his family,” said Chelanga.
Itumbi asked New York Times to admit liability for the “false and malicious publication” and remove the words he found offending from the online post.
His lawyer said the apology should be published by the media house, after they approve the text.
Chelanga further said the Times will be held liable for the injury and loss Itumbi suffers. He said the amount will be communicated in due course.
The President attacked the media house over the article by James Verini printed under the headline ‘Trial and Error’ and published online with the headline ‘ The Prosecutor and the President ‘.
The article is about the ICC’s the failure to prosecute Uhuru on crimes against humanity charges concerning the 2007/8 post-election violence.
The President, who was adversely mentioned, also demanded that the media house apologise over the remarks.
In a statement on Sunday, he termed the article “ridiculous, malicious, vindictive and unprofessional” and said the media house relied on “the fanciful accounts of unreliable individuals”.
He said the Times did not contact anyone at State House or interview Itumbi yet referred to him.
But the media house said it will not apologise over the remarks as they made every effort to ensure the accuracy of what they publish.
New York Times noted: “Itumbi’s investigation by the International Criminal Court is a matter of public record. As Verini’s article notes, he was not charged.”
By Nancy Agutu for the Star