Attacks on journalists thoughtless

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Once again, the messenger is being attacked merely for conveying the message, and doing their professional duty.

The number of journalists who in the recent past have been harassed and their equipment confiscated is an indication of a profession under siege.

In addition to journalists being harassed and profiled by goons from both sides of the political divide, media houses being intimidated against covering some particular individuals and some journalists forced to flee their areas of work, perpetrators have never been apprehended.

Steps must be taken to save the media and journalists from the siege, starting with demanding that politicians be made to pay for the damage their followers mete on journalists, authorities investigate and prosecute perpetrators, media support groups document and drag these goons to court.

Felix Ayieta, Evans Olouch, Eric Oloo, Abdikadir Chari, Mathews Ndanyi, Namisi Chebutai, Shaaban Makokha, Linet Wafula, Crispin Sichere, Dan Ocholla, Duncan Khaemba, Matina Stevis, Simon Achola, Caleb Kingwara, Evans Habil, Mwanaharusi Rashid, Stella Cherono, Rashid Ronald, Francis Gachuri, to name just a few have passed through nasty experiences from either criminal goons, political activists and security agencies.

Safety and protection of journalist is now a major concern in Kenya. Until now, none of the cases has fully been investigated nor the perpetrators prosecuted. In addition to the physical threats and attacks against journalists, some cases are reported where the Judiciary is imposing huge fines against civil-related cases that related to defamation while in the most extreme, some media houses have failed to respond to court summons while others have ignored the plight of their journalists’ altogether.

Cases are rife of journalists being targets for attacks largely from political party activists, criminal goons, informal religious groups, politicians and business barons and communities after being perceived not to represent them or their interests well in the media.

There are some areas that are a no-go zone for certain media in the country, simply because people are not happy with the ownership of such stations. The geographical zoning is a dangerous trend for media freedom and freedom of expression.

Increasing attacks against journalists as the elections in Kenya approach are not misplaced and are well founded. Many media/social researchers have alluded to the Kenyan media’s partial bipartisanship and overt complicity in the lead up to the outbreak of violence following the disputed presidential election results of December 2007 namely, Kenya Media Under Pressure: Nairobi Declaration (January 2008), (Makhokha 2010,) (Namwaya 2010) and (Nyanjom 2012).
Indeed, the Justice Kriegler and the Justice Waki reports were categorical on the collective media’s role both overtly and covertly in stirring up and abetting the violence by their performance or lack of during the country’s most trying period since independence.

The acts of harassment of journalists are a violation of the Constitution and international treaties that the country is party to, which guarantee press freedom and access to information. The attacks have been perpetrated by both State agents and private goons, and some of the cases are pending with the police.

Attacks and violence against journalists violates the Kenya Constitution that provides for the safety and security of all Kenyans and the protection of freedom of expression via Article 34. It is also a violation of international treaties that Kenya is party to.

UNESCO Resolution 29 adopted in 1997 dubbed, ‘Condemnation of violence against journalists’ urged the competent authorities of States to discharge their duty of preventing, investigating and punishing such crimes and remedying their consequences; and it urged member states to refine their legislation to make it possible to prosecute and sentence those who instigate the assassination of persons exercising the right to freedom of expression.

UN Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006) condemns attacks against journalists in conflict situations recalled that journalists engaged in dangerous professionals missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilians, to be protected as such.

UN Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006) condemns attacks against journalists in conflict situations recalled that journalists engaged in dangerous professionals missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilians, to be protected as such.

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights guarantees individuals against arbitrary deprivation of the right to life (Article 4), establishes an absolute prohibition of torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 5), guarantees the right to liberty and security of the person (Article 6), and freedom of expression (Article 9).

(The writer is the Programmes Manager and Journalists Safety Trainer at the Media Council of Kenya [email protected])

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