May 25th 2017

Media / Watchdog

Human rights body raises alarm over increased threats to media

The cases filed by KUJ include the video footage of two journalists, one from Royal Media Services and his counterpart of the Nation Media Group, being beaten by security guards of the Kakuzi Company in Murang’a County on September 3.

By Oscar NdundaThursday, 08 Sep 2016 18:15 EAT

Vice-Chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights addressing the media today at Freedom Corner, Nairobi. (Photo: Oscar Ndunda/Kenya Free Press)

The state-led Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the Kenya Union of Journalists have raised concern about what they called increased and sustained harassment, threats, assaults and intimidation of journalists.

During a press conference at the Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park, Nairobi today, the vice-chairperson of the KNCHR George Morara emphasized that while the constitution expressly provided for rights that should guarantee a responsible and free media, these were not being secured by the government.

Instead, government officials were increasingly abusing the rights of journalists. The commission has called for expeditious investigations into cases of physical assault and intimidation journalists by the police, officials of both the national and county governments, politicians and the public after members of the Fourth Estate presented a petition to the commission on the unresolved cases against journalists.

Some of the cases filed by the Kenya Union of Journalists include the video footage of two journalists, one from Royal Media Services and his counterpart of the Nation Media Group, being beaten by security guards of the Kakuzi Company in Murang’a County on September 3.

There is also the assault of Ms Grace Gitau of Nation Media Group and Lydia Nyawira of the Standard Media Group by Nyeri County MCA’s on August 23. Then there is also the case of Standard Newspapers reporter Joseph Masha who died in Kilifi County September 3, believed to have been poisoned by a top politician.

These cases add to a legacy of intimidation against journalists that has been building for months. On April 18, 2015, newsmen Nehemiah Okwemba of the Nation Media Group and Reuben Ogachi of Citizen TV were beaten up by officers of the paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) in Galana Tana River County. No action has been taken against the culprits.

Morara insisted that the media fraternity has a duty to inform the public and the public has the right to access information where he called on the government to ensure that journalists work in secure environment as stipulated and anchored in Articles 21, 33, 34, 35 and 36 of the constitution.

Morara urged media owners to ensure that they support journalists working for them by making sure that work done is respected and protected whereby he called on journalists to ensure they air their complaints to the commission.

Morara futher blamed the government for the delay in conclusion of assualt cases reported by journalists. He asked the government to reassure Kenyans that no measures, legal, regulatory or extrajudicial, shall be taken to limit the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the press.

On his part, KUJ secretary general Eric Oduor asked security agencies to act speedily on the cases against journalists in order to reassure the media that their rights will be respected during the electioneering. Speaking to the Free Press, Oduor said that emerging patttern of intimidation against journalists could undermine coverage of the 2017 elections.

The writer is the news editor of the Kenya Free Press





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