The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today has called authorities and security forces in Kenya to safeguard safety and security of journalists ahead of General elections after a journalist was beaten up in the course of his work by security personnel locally known as the General Service Unit (GSU).
General elections will be held in Kenya on tomorrow Monday 4 March 2013, electing the President, senators, county governors, members of Parliament, etc.
According to Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA), an IFJ affiliate, journalist Habil Onyango with the Star Newspaper based in Homa Bay Town in Western Kenya was on Saturday March 2, beaten up by GSU as he was covering a confrontation between supporters of two parliamentary rival candidates.
"We vigorously denounce this attack. We call on authorities in Kenya to stop the intimidation, harassment and physical danger journalists covering the electoral process are facing," said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director.
Habil Onyango was kicked and punched by GSU, KCA stated. GSU officers declined to recognize his press card and flung him into a lorry before driving him to the local police station where he was released in great pain. They failed to take away his camera.
The IFJ is very concerned about the safety and security of journalists in Kenya. IFJ joins its KCA affiliate to state that safety is an important prerequisite for achieving freedom of expression, democracy, social development and peace. "We call on the security forces to not only stop attacks on journalists but to offer the necessary protection to guarantee their safety and security on the polling day and during the post election period," said William Oloo Janak, national chairman Kenya Correspondents Association.
Janak added that a number of journalists have been operating under threats and a climate of fear over the electioneering period, especially over the past two months. During the party primaries journalists reported threats in Homabay, Migori and Siaya in the Nyanza Region (southwest). Reports of threats, and in some cases, attacks, have also been received from journalists in Nandi, Eldoret, Kitale and Nakuru in the Rift Valley, in Nanyuki in Central Kenya, Nairobi, the capital, Mombasa and Tana River in the Coast Region.
"We demand that all journalists in the area are left to work without hindrance and threats, which they have had to endure since mid January after chaotic political party primaries," added William Oloo Janak.
More than 200 Kenyan journalists were affected by the conflict following the December 2007 General elections, either through threats, attacks and trauma. Some of the journalists were either displaced or had to flee from their work places because of threats and fear of violence which was largely ethnic in nature.
"When journalists are threatened, attacked or killed, citizens are deprived of the necessary information to develop their own opinions and take informed decisions about their lives and development", Baglo added.
For more information, please contact IFJ: +221 33 867 95 86
The IFJ represents over 600.000 journalists in 134 countries