Campaign group Humans Rights Watch has accused senior Kenyan government officials of “getting away with physical attacks or open threats to journalists” in the country.
In a statement released on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, Humans Rights Watch said “the period around August 2017’s disputed presidential elections was particularly challenging” for Kenyan media.
Here is a timeline of the attacks and threats the watchdog documented:
- On March 26, 2018, Kenyan media reported that anti-riot police physically attacked journalists, including Citizen TV’s Stephen Letoo and NTV cameraman, Robert Gichira, as they reported on the airport scuffle that ensued during deportation of opposition lawyer, Miguna Miguna.
- On January 30, the government switched off three television stations that defied a state directive not to accord live coverage to Raila Odinga’s mock swearing in.
- On January 6, an audio recording surfaced, apparently of a senior government official, threatening Daily Nation journalist, Justus Wanga, over a story, including a threat to have Wanga fired. Earlier, on November 18, 2017, an audio recording surfaced apparently of another senior state official threatening KTN journalist, Mark Nabiswa, over his live coverage of opposition leader, Raila Odinga.
- On August 12, according to Standard newspaper, police arrested Kenya Television Network (KTN) journalist Duncan Khaemba while reporting on violent post-election protests in Nairobi’s Kibera slum for allegedly possessing a helmet and body armor without a proper license. The same month, police snatched the phone of Simon Achola, a reporter with government-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and deleted his photographs of the August protests. Also in August, police harassed reporters from the privately-owned Citizen Television at the Miruka Hotel, Kisumu, and injured at least two international journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The advocacy group added that the “these cases appear to suggest that patterns of abuse of journalists that Human Rights Watch and Article 19 documented countrywide in a joint May 2017 report have continued.”
It called on Kenya’s government to respect law by “allowing open reporting and commentary on any issues of pressing public interest”.
The Democracy Index 2017 report ranked Kenya among countries whose media freedom status is ‘largely unfree’.
Despite these threats, Kenya has the freest and most diverse media scene in the region.