15 April 2014

Kenya: Media Accused of Bias in Ongoing Crackdown

Photo: Julius Kithuure/ Sabahi Online
Kenya Police man a check point at Kasarani stadium where thousands are being held in the Eastleigh terror crackdown in Nairobi.

HUMAN rights bodies have accused the Kenyan media of "selective coverage" and "lacking fairness" in the police crackdown to flush out illegal immigrants. The Muslim Human Rights Forum executive director Al-Amin Kimathi yesterday said the media has taken "a slide in objectivity" in its coverage of the government's counter-terrorism measures.

"The media only focuses on the purported war on terror but failed to say how the war is being carried out. Gross human rights violation have been committed in the process and no one talks about it," he said.

"Government statements about the attacks and its response seem to be taken at face value. We always listen to the police and imaginative intelligence sources while ignoring the plights of those abused by the same police who ought to protect them."

Speaking during the forum organised by the Journalists for Justice, an organisation that seeks to promote accurate coverage of international criminal justice, in Nairobi yesterday, Kimathi said the "opaque" manner in which the ongoing operations in Eastleigh and other parts of the country is being done is worrying.

"If the government's conscience is clear that what it is doing is right, why can't it do in a transparent manner and within the confines of the law?" he said.

Kimathi said the media failed to take the security apparatus to task on its counter-terrorism operations. "When for example, the police tells us that two men are suspected to be behind the Likoni church attack, the media fails to question who and where they are," he said.

Kimathi said the government is yet to tell Kenyans what really happened during the Westgate Mall attack. Ben Rawlence, the Open Society Foundation fellow, said Dadaab refugee camp, which is often seen as 'nursery' for terrorism, is misunderstood.

"Most Kenyan media misunderstand Dadaab and are quick to carry the government's assumptions that it is a hotbed of terror and extremism," he said. "This is far from the case. It is more an engine of moderation than an engine of radicalisation, full of people who would like to work with Kenya to see peace in Somalia; if only the government would listen," Rawlence said.

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