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Kenyan journalists acquire guns as threats mount

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Some prominent Kenyan journalists are among licensed gun holders in the country, BusinessToday has established, a revelation that could touch off a wave of applications from media personalities who feel insecure due to their exposure.

According to police insiders, 16 journalists, who we can’t reveal for security reasons, already own licensed guns.  Security authorities say journalists are among the growing number of civilians keen on taking precautionary measures, including seeking licences to carry concealed guns, which can come in handy in case of personal attacks.

Those in this category include prominent editors and news anchors in the country’s major media houses.

This is likely to stir debate on whether journalists are entitled to carry guns for self-defence in a world where they are increasingly facing threats or being killed especially in war situations, which has been going on globally recently or whether they should stick to their professional duty and leave it to other actors to protect them.

While Kenya is not in a war situation, increased insecurity and personal threats to journalists have been on the rise in recent years, perhaps, the reason some are keenly observing the national government’s mantra that “security begins with you.”

However, the last time a journalist was reported killed in the line of duty in Kenya was April 2015 when John Kituyi, the editor of Eldoret-based Mirrow Weekly, was murdered for what many believe was his reporting of sensitive issues in the region. In 2009, Nyamira-based freelancer Francis Nyaruri disappeared and was later found dead after writing a story highlighting police corruption in the area.

TIP >> How to get a licensed fire arm in Kenya

More recently, former CNN reporter and KTN talkshow host Jeff Koinange was attacked by armed thugs at his home in Nairobi, who broke into his house and robbed him of his phone and other household valuables.

There are those who reckon that though it has long been taboo for reporters to carry weapons, the fact that they are in constant danger (colleagues being gunned down and the authorities can’t protect them) journalists are beginning to rethink the journalistic commandment “thou shall not bear arms” and that words are the only weapon available to them.

Journalists having licensed guns would be a major twist for the profession in the country as previously, such requests based on professional risks were promptly turned down. However, a security analyst told Business Today that the journalists may have obtained the licences in their private capacities and not because of their professional work.

SEE ALSO: Jeff Koinange robbed in night attack at his home

In the western world, media houses are taking steps to protect their journalists and especially special correspondents covering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in unstable countries such as the Philippines where reporters have been forced to take defensive postures but with mixed results.

This includes issuing flak jackets and providing “hostile environment training” to protect their reporters. But the debate has not been settled amid concerns over the safety of journalists in various countries worldwide.

On Wednesday, 300 delegates representing the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) marched through the city streets of Angers, France, to commemorate journalists killed in the line of their profession.

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Delegates who participated at the IFJ World Congress laid a white rose in front of the commemorative plaque for Camille Lepage, who was killed on May 12, 2014 in the Central African Republic (CAR). The 26-year-old journalist had been travelling near the CAR border with Cameroon when she was caught up in fighting. The circumstances of her death remain unresolved.

IFJ President, Jim Boumelha, said: “The death of a journalist such as Camille is utterly painful. It is an injustice. The killing of journalists doesn’t only affect journalists, media and unions. It is a concern for society as a whole.”

The IFJ has been campaigning for several years on a wide scale to denounce impunity for crimes against journalists. It noted that only one murder out of 10 is investigated and impunity remains the highest threat to press freedom in the world. The IFJ reiterated its call on world governments to do their utmost to bring journalists’ murderers to justice.


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