NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 10 – A British journalist working for The Times of London newspaper said Friday he was being deported from Kenya after being detained for more than a day at the airport without explanation or charge.
Jerome Starkey, 35, was locked in a cell overnight after arriving in Kenya from the UK late on Thursday.
“Over 24hrs in detention in #Kenya – denied access to a lawyer – now I’m being deported without explanation? Smacks of intimidation,” Starkey wrote on Twitter shortly before being flown out of Kenya.
Officers told Starkey a “security block” had been placed on his passport but were unable to provide any further information.
Kenyan authorities did not respond to requests for a comment.
An award-winning journalist, Starkey has lived in Kenya since 2012 when he was appointed Africa correspondent for The Times after years working in Afghanistan.
Starkey has reported extensively on terrorism, security, miscarriages of justice, conservation and drugs trafficking while based in East Africa.
“Just been arrested at the airport on orders of security services,” Starkey tweeted early on Friday morning, posting a photograph of an untidy room with metal bunk beds inside the airport terminal.
He was questioned by immigration, detectives and anti-terrorism police and later tweeted that police had prevented his lawyer from seeing him. His phones were confiscated shortly thereafter.
The Foreign Correspondents Association of East Africa (FCAEA) condemned the expulsion of a journalist who “has worked tirelessly to cover the region for the past four years and is known by his colleagues to be committed to the highest standards of journalism.”
“We are particularly concerned by the lack of clarity about the reasons for his expulsion,” the FCAEA said in a statement.
The Committee to Protect Journalists earlier said Starkey’s detention “on such unclear grounds, is cause for serious alarm.”
The CPJ noted in a statement that much of Starkey’s recent reporting from Nairobi had focused on the death in Kenya of a British real-estate developer whose demise led to allegations of poisoning and patricide.
He also reported on a high profile cocaine trial involving a British aristocrat, in which the state was accused of sitting on evidence that showed Kenyan police arrested someone with no connection to the drugs.
The CPJ in 2015 released a report showing that a combination of legal and physical harassment has made it increasingly difficult for journalists to work in Kenya.
Amnesty International also condemned Starkey’s detention.
“If it transpires that Jerome is being held due to his reporting, this would be a flagrant violation of his right to freedom of expression. Journalism is not a crime.”
Starkey’s deportation comes just two days after American reporter Justin Lynch was arrested and deported from South Sudan after a series of articles critical of the government.