We civil society members under the umbrella of the Civic Freedoms Forum, note with concern the harassment of journalists by a police officer witnessed yesterday while the journalists covered the demonstrations held by Langata Cemetery workers. In a video clip, the unidentified officer is witnessed pushing journalists who were recording the police as they lobbed tear gas to peaceful protesters. This happened just a few days after a similar attack on three journalists covering a police raid at a suspected chang’aa den in Katine village, Matungulu Sub-County in Machakos County.
This is part of a worrying trend which has been building up since in November 2022 when Nation Media Group journalist Mr Mwangi Muiruri, was attacked by plain clothes policemen attached to the office of Kenya’s second lady on November 24, 2022, in Muranga County. During the demonstrations in March and July this year, journalists from Citizen Tv and international media covering demos in Kibra, Nairobi, were attacked and robbed by a knife-wielding gang. In Mathare, two Africa Uncensored journalists were arrested by police. In the Nairobi CBD, NTV journalist reported that police demanded deletion of photos taken and destroyed the reporters’ press card.
Attacks on journalists are crimes that go against the journalists' rights and privileges protected by law under the Constitution and the Media Council Act, 2013. The right is also guaranteed under regional and international human rights instruments ratified by Kenya, including, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Banjul Charter) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
We, condemn, in the strongest terms possible, the actions of the police officers involved; first for harassing journalists and second, for lobbing teargas at peaceful protesters and mourners at the cemetery. Journalists have a professional duty to report the truth as it happens. They also have the right to enjoy media freedom in the course of their work.
We, therefore, call upon the Government and particularly the Inspector General of Police and all police officers to:
- Respect media freedom and desist from the continued intimidation and harassment of journalists in their line of duty.
- Respect the freedoms of assembly, association, protest and picketing as enshrined in Article 37 of the Constitution, and desist from disrupting peaceful protests by lobbing teargas at peaceful protesters.
- IPOA and the Internal Affairs Unit to investigate this and similar incidents and hold the officers accountable.
- Kenya Human Rights Commission - KHRC
- Independent Medico Legal Unit - IMLU
- ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa
- Muslims for Human Rights - MUHURI
- Defenders Coalition
- Constitution and Reform Education Consortium - CRECO
- Partnerships 4 Empowerment & Networking in Kenya – PEN Kenya
- Initiative for Inclusive Empowerment - IIE
- Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi!