Nation arms its journalists for demos

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s the National Super Alliance (NASA) readies for confrontations with security forces after ignoring a ban on street demonstrations, media houses have upped safety measures to ensure their journalists are protected against the hazards that come with covering violent beats.

Apart from their usual tools of trade – note books, pens, cameras, microphones, voice recorders and lately, smartphones – journalists have in recent times world over been forced to wear bullet proof gear and gas masks and the trend is fast catching on.

Bullet proof vests/jackets and helmets were first used in Kenya about three years ago when the country was in the grip of an intensified war against Somali-based al Shabaab militants who had sustained attacks in the country, including the Westgate Mall siege.

Media personnel covering the assaults against al Shabaab especially on the front line and inside Somalia were required as per protocol to wear bullet proof gear.

However, following the announcement of President Uhuru Kenyatta as the August 8 Presidential Election, KTN journalists Duncan Khaemba and Willis Otieno were taken into police custody for being in possession of bullet proof gear without a permit.

READ: Battle for Star newspaper’s top position kicks off

The two, who were covering protests in Kibra, were taken for questioning at Kilimani police station but were later released after the Standard Group confirmed that the gear in question was dully licensed.

This past week, security officers seeking to control Nasa street protests especially in the Raila Odinga stronghold of Kisumu have indicated they have no regard for journalists. Friday, a Citizen TV journalist was injured in the lakeside city during a confrontation between police and NASA supporters who had defied a protest ban imposed by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.

Block 5

In Nairobi, journalists Fredrick Onyango and Enos Teche were clobbered outside Parliament Buildings.

Journalists harassed

Onyango produced his press accreditation cards but it only made matters worse for him, thanks to his ethnicity. The officer allegedly told him he is one of those “troubling the country.”

“I said it today is a bad day for journalist my colleague Enos Teche and I clobbered outside Parliament they arrested me and went ahead seeking my press card when I showed it he looks at my name and says si ndio tunasumbua Nchi. His photos coming shortly,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

On Wednesday, five journalists were harassed, beaten and injured by police in Kisumu while covering the anti-IEBC demos. About 20 officers from the General Service Unit mobbed Rashid Ronald of KTN and Faith Matete of the Star near Kisumu Boys High School.

SEE: Caroline Mutoko caught up in land scam

The officers clobbered Mr Ronald, injuring him on the leg. While beating him, they said Kisumu journalists were not any special than protesters on the street. The officers then lobbed teargas canisters at NTV’s Ouko Okusa, his cameraperson Doreen Magak and Daily Nation reporter Rushdie Oudia.

In a bid to protect its journalists against such danger, the Nation Media Group has now invested in gas masks to shield them from its harmful effects.

Friday, a photo of NTV journalist Brenda Mulinya wearing one such mask was circulating online. Though expensive, a gas mask is the best tool to protect journalists by allowing them to cover the story safely, according to the International News Safety Institute (INSI).

Tear gas, which Kenyan police use rather generously for crowd control missions, has various harzadhs which journalists covering them should be aware.

ALSO SEE: Police beat up TV journalists covering NASA demo

For instance, when chemicals used in tear gas react with moisture they cause a burning sensation, meaning that the eyes, skin and lungs are extremely susceptible.  The INSI warns journalists covering protests to avoid wearing oil-based creams, sunscreens and make-up as they will also absorb tear gas.

Recently, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for a review of the country’s laws to allow journalists wear protective gear.

CPJ, which also asked the government to investigate cases of harassment and intimidation of at least 10 journalists in the aftermath of the August 8 poll, said the Firearms Act should be amended to allow journalists to wear more protective gear especially when covering riots and chaotic rallies.

READ: KTN journalists arrested as protests rock NASA strongholds

However, wearing gas marks to circumvent police dispersion tactics is still prone to challenges such as covering intense public situations when security agencies are striving to maintain order and likely, order everyone to leave.

The Reporters Committee quotes an instance where a freelance TV journalist Armando Gallardo was arrested by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in the United States while while covering protests in Charlotte over the fatal shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

Gallardo allegedly infringed upon regulations specified in Charlotte’s Code of Ordinances prohibiting “body armor, shield, helmet, protective pads, or gas masks carried or worn with the intent to delay, obstruct or resist the lawful orders of a law enforcement officer” during an extraordinary event – a “large scale special event of national or international significance … expected to attract a significant number to a certain portion of the city.”

Nevertheless, the right to information should be seriously considered in undertaking any review such as the one suggested by the CPJ.

READ: Nairobi billionaire pays Sh25 million for a loan he guaranteed a friend


KCB, MasterCard Deal Sets Pace for Payments in East Africa

KCB, MasterCard have signed a five-year strategic collaboration framework that will see cardholders across East Africa benefit from enhanced value propositions.

Ifeanyi Odoh Appointed New Schneider Electric Kenya Country President

Schneider Electric™ Kenya has appointed Ifeanyi Odoh as its...

How to Invest in Kakuzi Shares

Investing your money in Kakuzi shares can help you...

Safaricom Reveals Strategic Secrets at Ethiopia Investor Day

Safaricom PLC on Saturday 22nd Feb 2023 held its second investor day in Addis Ababa, providing an opportunity for the investment community to gain insights into the company's achievements and future plans as well as see the progress so far in Ethiopia rollout.

Follow Us


Don't miss

Throwing The Girls Into Deep End: Single Kiasi S3 First Look

Nairobi’s dating scene is about to get messy: Single Kiasi...

Win New Year Crossover Mugithi Tickets With Odibets

The event has attracted prominent Kikuyu musicians who will be headlining the event including Samidoh and Muigai wa Njoroge.

For Coloured Girls is Theatre Production of the Year

The play ‘For Coloured Girls (who have considered suicide/ when...

Tusker Oktobafest Rolls East African Cultures into One

From regional events across Kenya to inaugural gatherings in Uganda and Tanzania, and the Tusker Oktobafest grand finale in Nairobi, the festival harmonized traditions, celebrated diversity, and highlighted the rich cultural tapestry of the East African culture

Lupita’s Little Brother Junior Nyong’o Charting His Own Path in Acting

Junior Nyongó, who is also a musician and a DJ and now a graduate of UC San Diego with an MFA in Acting, is crafting his own solid path in the world of acting with roles in major theatre productions.

Safaricom To Power Tusker OktobaFest Beer Festival

Safaricom’s involvement in OktobaFest as a technology and payments partner will focus on fostering seamless in-festival connectivity, empowering the youth and Gen Z community through Safaricom Hook, and powering digital payments through M-PESA.

Music Producers Launch Organization To Streamline Recording Industry

Recording Industry of Kenya (RIKE) was launched on 9th October 2023. Registered in 2022 as a not-for-profit organization, RIKE aims to promote the collective interests of producers of sound recordings in the country.

Nairobi’s Hero Bar Listed Among World’s 50 Best Bars

World Best Bars: Hero Bar in Nairobi continues to climb the list, moving up six places to No.62 and Johannesburg’s Sin + Tax comes in at No.94. Dubai new entry Ergo is at No.69 and Melbourne’s Byrdi has re-entered the list at No.61.

Kenyan DJs Face Off In Smirnoff Battle Of The Beats Season 3

The Smirnoff Battle of the Beats Season 3, a DJ competition, is poised to unleash an unprecedented musical frenzy countrywide.

The Highs And Lows Of Betty Kyallo, Sisters Show As Season 2 Ends

Kyallo Kulture has always been, above all, about sisterhood, and in Season 2 we have witnessed the charm of it - the ups that gave us wholesome moments as the sisters led by Betty Kyallo spent time together.
editor [at]

KCB, MasterCard Deal Sets Pace for Payments in East Africa

KCB, MasterCard have signed a five-year strategic collaboration framework that will see cardholders across East Africa benefit from enhanced value propositions.

Ifeanyi Odoh Appointed New Schneider Electric Kenya Country President

Schneider Electric™ Kenya has appointed Ifeanyi Odoh as its new Country President effective February 2024. Ifeanyi joins Schneider Electric Kenya from South East Asia where...

How to Invest in Kakuzi Shares

Investing your money in Kakuzi shares can help you turn money into more money, whether you are planning for retirement, looking to boost personal...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here