Journalists are most likely to face abuses and further intimidation from the government ahead of elections scheduled for 8th August 2017.
A report released yesterday by Human Right Watch and Article 19 Eastern Africa, reveals that journalists and bloggers reporting on c********n, disputed land acquisitions, counter-t*******m operations, the 2007-2008 post-election v******e among other sensitive issues have faced and will continue to face intimidation, beatings and job loss.
Dubbed ‘Not Worth the Risk”, the report titled: Threats to Free Expression Ahead of Kenya’s 2017 Elections’ documents abuses by government officials, police, county governors and politicians against the media.
It examines government attempts to obstruct critical journalists and bloggers with legal, administrative and informal threats, intimidation, harassment, online and phone surveillance and in some cases, physical assaults.
Regional Director at Article 19 Eastern Africa, Henry Maina said journalists must stem the tide of increased v******e and impunity against journalism in Kenya. “No policy to address the situation can be successful if measures to prevent aggression against and to protect at-risk journalists are not accompanied with thorough and timely prosecutions of all c****s committed,” added Mr Maina.
Mr Maina said despite receiving formal complaints from journalists, police have rarely investigated the a*****s or threats, adding that since President Uhuru Kenyatta took office in 2013, there is no evidence that any security officer or public official has been held accountable for threatening, intimidating or physically attacking a member of the media in Kenya.
Some have even been k****d
Africa Researcher at Human Rights Watch Otsieno Namwaya said they interviewed 92 journalists, human rights activists, bloggers and government officials throughout Kenya and documented 17 incidences in which 23 journalists and bloggers were physically assaulted between 2013 and 2017 by government officials or individuals believed to be aligned with government officials. He added that two journalists d**d under circumstances that are related to their work.
Mr Namwaya said they group documented 16 incidences of direct d***h threats against journalists and bloggers across the country in recent years. He added that there was some incidences when 14 journalists where arbitrarily a******d, d******d and later released without charge.
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“On September 7, 2016, unidentified assailants forced themselves into the house of a photojournalist, Denis Otieno, in Kitale town, Rift Valley, and demanded photos on his camera, then s**t him d**d. Otieno had photographed police officers s******g to d***h a motorcycle taxi rider at Kitale bus station a few days earlier,” noted Mr Namwaya.
He noted that for Kenya’s August elections to be credible and fair, the media needs to be able to report on pressing issues of national interest without fear of reprisals.
“While Kenyan journalists have borne the impact of government a***e, the foreign media have also faced retaliations for critical reporting,” said Mr Namwaya, giving an example of the 2015 i******t where Kenyan authorities threatened to ban two foreign journalists from an international media outlet reporting on alleged police d***h squads implicated in extrajudicial k******s.
“In a political environment traditionally polarized along ethnic lines, general elections have often been characterized by heightened tensions and competitions along ethnic groups, leaving journalists to delicately navigate a fragile and hostile environment while reporting on issues of national interest such as security, land ownership and c********n during the election period,” the report observed.