Journalists Unspared in Kenya’s Election Crisis

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Kenya is undergoing a tense political moment in this year’s general election. The murky waters; the strongest democratic East African Nation finds itself in certainly is an area the country has never been.

The Kenyan court annulled the presidential election held on the 8th of August citing irregularities and illegalities. From 8th August when the first election presidential winner was announced to the run –off election, the country has seen violence and even killings in some instances.

Journalists have not been spared in the crisis and have been targets of threats, harassment and mistreatment by both police and protestors.

Immediately the presidential winner was announced before the elections were annulled, hell broke loose in some opposition strongholds especially in the western part of Kenya where the opposition has very strong support. Police were dispatched to quell the violence and in the process never spared Journalists.

The first to be roughed up by the police themselves were journalists covering the riots. Officers drawn from Kenya police hurled teargas at journalists who followed them as they dispersed crowds saying they didn’t want to be followed doing their work. A reporter with Star Newspaper was roughed up, as the police demanded she produces videos of the protests.

Another reporter Rashid Ronald of Kenya Television Network was beaten up as he was preparing to report live on the protests. Members of the police force beat him up despite him clearly identifying himself as reporter. Kisumu Journalists Network chairman Mr. Dickson also suffered leg injuries as the police hurled teargas at them.

As if that was not enough KTN journalists Duncan Khaemba and Otieno Willis were taken into custody for possession of bulletproof gear, despite the fact that the journalists had licenses for the same issued by their employer the standard group. The police claimed they wanted to see the original licenses and not photo copies.

The two were filing reports in Kibera one of Kenya’s largest slum, which is generally an opposition stronghold.

Protestors have also not spared journalists in this charade. On the day of election rerun which the opposition boycotted, Sofia Wanuna a news anchor with Kenya Television Network was threatened on live TV as she covered protests against the repeat poll in Kibera.

While live on TV, a protester threatened to beat her up if she didn’t leave the area. At first Sofia ignored the protester who left and then came back with a rod and ultimately Sofia had to cut off her live reporting to seek safety.

Francis Gachuri another journalist with Citizen TV was not spared either. As he was preparing to cover a live press conference with the opposition leader Raila Odinga, supporters of the opposition party roughed him up accusing him of being from a media hostile to their party leader.

They proceeded to eject him from the event. A camera lady from Nation TV Jane Gatwiri was also slapped for filming the goons roughing up Francis.

Journalists covering the event staged a walk out in solidarity with their colleague forcing the event to be cut short for a while. The opposition director of communication apologized over the incident terming it barbaric and archaic and promised to investigate the matter. Francis Gachuri in a later tweet said that he is safe but deeply regrets the incident.

In all this however what is worrying is that no investigations have taken place, no one has been charged and the journalists continue to be harassed yet they are only messengers. So far 20 journalists within a space of 2 months over the electioneering period have been harassed and those are just reported cases. Safety and protection is now a major concern in Kenya.

Increasing attacks against journalists especially during this election period is a clear violation of not only Kenyan journalists rights enshrined in the Kenyan constitution but also UN Security Council Resolution 1738 of 2006 which condemns attacks against journalists in conflict situations.

As we consider November 2nd the International Day to End Impunity against Journalists; Kenya, Africa and the world in general must always remember Reporting is NOT a CRIME!

All rights reserved, Doha Centre for Media Freedom 2017

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