NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 22- Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has expressed concerns over the rising cases of attacks targeting journalists in various parts of the country, a situation that has seen a series of protests in Nairobi and Mombasa Counties.
Mucheru, speaking while launching the Media Council of Kenya Board Thursday, warned the perpetrators, saying they will face the full force of the law in a bid to ensure the freedom of media is not infringed.
“Media freedom is a perquisite of a thriving democracy. However my Ministry is concerned that there have been a worrying increase in cases of incidents of attacks on journalists in Kenya while they are on duty. This cannot be tolerated in a country that boosts of legally protected freedoms of expression because it instils fear and anxiety among media practitioners,” he stated.
“The Government will do everything in its powers to ensure that the perpetrators of crime against journalists are brought to book and that the press freedom is guaranteed in line the Constitution.”
The media industry is yet to come to terms with the recent mysterious death of a Kilifi County based reporter who had been receiving alleged threat messages from a local politician.
The CS however urges journalists to exercise caution while covering political rallies ahead of the 2017 General Election, a period normally characterized with intimidation and attacks against them, due to perceived bias while reporting.
“As election draws near, I urge the media to avoid coverage that can provoke ethnic hatred and division, by observing the cardinal professional tenets of objectivity, fairness and balance. Media is powerful and it will be disastrous if gate keepers leave their vigilant role to allow external forces to use it to further their selfish agenda to the detriment of innocent audiences,” he asserted.
Political Journalists Association of Kenya (PJAK) has since called on the Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet to crackdown on those who are guilty of attacking journalists.
They specifically want the IG to expedite the ongoing probe on the mysterious death of the Kilifi journalist.
“We are calling on journalists to move with care during the ongoing political campaigns. Dangerous threats targeting them should at least be reported to the authorities,” reads a statement from the association.
“We urge parties in the political arena to view journalists as messengers and journalists to treat sources with care in order to ensure the line between them is within safety.
We appeal to politicians and other citizens to resort to legally laid down structures in addressing any misunderstandings between them and media personalities instead of employing extra-judicial tactics.”
To further enhance media freedom, the Media Council of Kenya has called for amendments in the Kenya Information and Communications Amendment Act (2013), specifically on the clauses calling for hefty fines of Sh20 million against a media enterprises and half a million shillings for a journalist considered to have violated the Act.
The Council’s Chairman Charles Kerich says the provisions remains a major predicament to the media industry and risks infringing on its freedom if not rectified.
“We are requesting our CS to facilitate a conversation with Parliament and other stakeholders to amend these contentious clauses,” he said.
He said the media industry continues to face major challenges including intimidation of journalists covering sensitive issues across various parts of the country while calling for stern action against the perpetrators.
He challenged the media to execute its mandate professionally more so during the electioneering period.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the country’s Constitution which was signed in 2010.