NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15 – Traffic Police officers from Bobaracho, Kisii County attacked journalists as they covered a protest by members of the public following the deaths of two students who were killed after a lorry being driven by one of the Police officers lost control and hit them.
Denish Ochieng’ a photographer attached to the Standard Group Limited broke his tooth and sustained a deep cut on his chin after one of the police officers hit him with a stone.
“They did not want us to cover the fact that a police officer was driving a civilian vehicle and caused an accident,” said Ochieng’.
Speaking to Capital News, Ochieng’ says Police had impounded a lorry carrying electric poles and one of the officers decided to drive to the police station.
“As he was driving down a steep near Gusii Institute of Technology, the lorry lost control, veered off the road and hit two students killing them instantly – the residents were furious,” he narrated.
He says the residents began demonstrating and after a while an army of men in uniform matched to the scene of the accident and started shooting in the air as residents hurled stones at the officers, sensing danger he decided to run towards the police for safety.
“We normally take cover with the police during such incidents, so I ran towards them. One shot at me and missed my left foot by a whisker; his colleagues told him they knew me so I joined them,” he continued.
Ochieng’ says as soon as he joined the Police officers who were still shooting in the air to disperse the angry crowd, one cop hit him with a stone.
“I ran away and met the base Commander on the way; I told your officers want to kill me. He told me to go seek treatment, we have not spoken since,” added Ochieng’.
The bodies were picked close to 16 hours later quelling tension in the area, calm has since been restored.
This is not the first time journalists have been assaulted by Police, two weeks ago journalists from Nation Media Group and Royal Media Services suffered broken ribs and limbs following an attack by GSU officers who wanted to bar them from reporting the alleged disappearance of local herders livestock which had trespassed on the Agricultural Finance Corporation (ADC) Galana /Kulalu ranch in Tana River County.
Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery however dismissed the incident claiming the journalists were caught in line of fire and were not targets promising to bring to end similar incidents.
The incidents have however not gone unnoticed; the Kenya Union of Journalists has raised concern over the increasing cases of assault on journalists by police officers.
KUJ Secretary General Eric Oduor condemned Kisii attack calling for action to be taken on the officers responsible.
“KUJ is appalled by the action of the police officers who are charged with responsibility of protection civilians and is demanding immediate prosecution of these officers and the General Service Union officers who attacked journalists in Galana few weeks ago,” said Oduor.
The journalists union added that the attacks would not deter members of the Fourth Estate from informing the public of the ills in the police force and in society in general.