Kenyan authorities must hold to account soldiers with the General Service Unit, Kenya's paramilitary force, in connection with their reported assault of two journalists on Sunday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Dennis Okeyo, a photographer for the Daily Nation, and John Otanga, a cameraman for Nation TV, said they were attacked by GSU soldiers while they were attempting to cover politically motivated clashes in Kibera, a neighborhood in Nairobi, according to news reports and local journalists. The Daily Nation and Nation TV are a part of the Nation Media Group, a large independent media outlet in Kenya.
Otanga told CPJ that he and Okeyo were prevented from entering Kibera by GSU trucks that were parked to prevent entry and exit into the area. Soldiers had been assigned to patrol the neighborhood after supporters of a defeated parliamentary nominee began to attack locals who had favored the rival nominee, according to news reports.
Otanga told CPJ that when Okeyo showed the GSU soldiers his press card, the soldiers began to beat them with clubs. The soldiers also seized Okeyo's memory card from his camera, and took 2,000 Kenyan shillings (US$23) from him, Okeyo told CPJ.
Otanga sought treatment at a local hospital for a head injury and Okeyo for injuries to his knee and arms, Okeyo told CPJ. The journalist also said that his memory card and money had not been returned and that they had reported the attack to the police.
Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo ordered an investigation into Sunday's attack after Keriako Tobiko, director of public prosecution, wrote an open letter condemning attacks on journalists and demanding a thorough review of the case, according to news reports. Police visited Nation Media Group today to record statements about the attack, Okeyo told CPJ.
GSU officers have attacked journalists in previous months. In December, exiled Somali journalist Muhyadin Ahmed Roble was beaten and robbed by GSU soldiers near his home in Kairokoo, while investigating a grenade attack in the area, Roble told CPJ.
"While we welcome the swift reaction by Kenyan police to investigate this matter, such assaults should never happen in the first place," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "This is not the first time the GSU has blatantly attacked and robbed a journalist in Kenya. Those involved in this attack must be brought to justice, and the property of Dennis Okeyo should be returned immediately."
The Media Council of Kenya released a statement condemning the attack on Okeye and Otanga, and announced the creation of an online portal on which journalists could report abuses of press freedom.
Committee to Protect Journalists