World Press Freedom Day: 22 cases of attacks on journalists reported between March & April
ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa has expressed dismay over the increase in violence against journalists while on duty in Kenya between May-April 2020 with documented cases of attacks, harassment, intimidation rising to 59 from 53 last year.
Their report revealed that attacks on journalists increased significantly in the first quarter of 2020 with recorded cases reaching 36 at the height of coronavirus pandemic across the country.
“Of the 36 cases recorded, 22 violations took place between March and April, barely two months following the government’s announcement of the first case of COVID 19 on March 12 in Kenya,” their statement reads.
This constitutes 37 per cent of the total violations during the monitoring period.
According to ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, these attacks were carried out by security agents, government officials, and organised mobs – including primary school pupils in a manner that clearly demonstrates a sustained effort to stifle and control the press, and limit the free flow of information in 22 counties.
Nairobi recorded the highest violations with 13 incidents, followed by Mombasa with 6 and Turkana witnessing 4 cases. Other 19 counties recorded between 3 and 1 cases each.
As the journalists around the globe marked the World Press Freedom Day under the theme of Journalism Without Fear and Favour; reporting about the coronavirus health crisis, corruption and the 2022 succession politics are the most sensitive stories for journalists to cover in 2020 in Kenya.
Attacks at the county levels continued to increase as journalists have been denied access to information or news venues to provide objective and critical reporting on the counties’ development progress, their response preparedness to the pandemic and the shaping local politics.
“An independent media is crucial for Kenya’s ability to achieve her development agenda including the efforts to contain the raging pandemic and its watchdog role of ensuring that those in power are being held to account, said Mugambi Kiai, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, Regional Director.
“A free press cannot thrive in an environment in which journalists are constantly under severe and constant attack: this undermines freedom of expression, and democracy, in the country. Despite filing complaints with police cases of attacks and threats against journalists are rarely investigated,”he added.
Of the 59 violations recorded by ARTICLE 19, only one case involving a non-State actor has been investigated with the perpetrators subsequently being taken to court.
The organisation said this is a mere 1% rate of effective investigation, suggesting a high level of impunity regarding attacks on journalists.
“Failure to bring those responsible for attacks on journalists to account sends the signal that the media can be silenced through violence, and will ultimately lead to many journalists resorting to self-censorship, hampering the realisation of the right to free expression. The government must take the necessary steps to ensure that journalists are free to carry out their work,” Mugambi said.
ARTICLE 19 is calling on the Kenyan government to uphold freedom of the media and to end attacks on journalists carrying out their work.
The government is further being urged to create an enabling environment for journalists to carry out their duties, without threat of attack or criminalisation.
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