The Media Council of Kenya has condemned an incident in which a Standard journalist James Omoro was attacked by a police officer in Homa Bay county as he covered chaos at the County Assembly sparked by leadership wrangles. His camera was confiscated and extensively vandalised.
MCK CEO David Omwoyo, in a statement, said the action by police is not only an affront to press freedom, protected under Article 34 of the Constitution of Kenya but violates the right to safety of journalists as articulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 Paragraph 2 of the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights.
The Article stipulates that it is mandatory for each state to ensure a safe and enabling environment for journalists in the performance of their Public Interest Duty independently and without any interference.
“While we welcome the actions taken by the Homa Bay County Police Commander and the County’s Director of (sic) Criminal Investigations Officer, we call upon the Inspector General of Police and the Independent Police (Oversight) Authority and the Police Spokesperson to carry out investigations into what led to the attack on the journalist and further confiscation of equipment,” he said.
“The media has a role to inform the public on what is happening in Homa Bay County and the police have a duty to protect them as they perform their duties. The media should not be intimidated by any internal or external forces in the line of duty,” added Omwoyo.
He said the council will continue to defend and ensure the safety of journalists as a whole, and where legitimate concerns are raised on the work of the media, such concerns must be addressed within the ambit of the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya of which it is the custodian.
Omoro was attacked when he went to cover chaos at the assembly by a police officer despite identifying himself as a journalist.
“After realising they were hostile, I decided to introduce myself but an officer took none of it. He hit my right hand with a baton and crashed my camera. He later confiscated it,” the Nation quotes his as saying.
The journalist then realised that more officers were going for him so he turned to run away but was hit again by the same policeman.
He ran to a police station some 50 meters away and reported the attack.
Omoro returned to the assembly with the Homa Bay Director of Criminal Investigations Officer (DCIO) but did not find the officer.
“We couldn’t find the culprit who had stolen my camera. I wondered what his intention was and whose instructions he was under,” he said.
According to the newspaper, this is not the first such occurrence in Homa Bay; journalists have been blocked and harassed at the assembly premises in the past.
Homa-Bay Police Commander Marius Tum said investigations will be carried out and action taken against the police officers who assaulted the journalist.