19 August 2017

Kenya: Allow Journalists to Wear Protective Gear, Probe Harassment

Media lobby groups want the Kenyan government to investigate cases of harassment and intimidation of journalists who covered the aftermath of the General Election.

They also want the country to amend its laws to allow journalists to wear protective gear.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) spoke to at least 10 journalists who reported being assaulted or harassed in the course of their duty while reporting on the hotly contested election.

"Authorities should make sure that these cases are investigated to make it clear that journalists cannot be harassed with impunity and that the public has a right to information from a wide variety of sources," said CPJ Africa programme co-ordinator Angela Quintal.

"Journalists in Kenya must be permitted to report without fear of violence or hindrance from security forces or anyone else," she added.

Calls for reforms

The New York-based organisation also called for reforms on Kenya's Firearms Act to allow journalists to wear more protective gear especially when covering riots and chaotic rallies.

"Authorities should remove the bureaucratic hoops that make it difficult for journalists to keep themselves safe while working in hostile conditions," said CPJ Emergencies director Maria Salazar-Ferro.

CPJ's call for reforms on the Firearms Act comes barely a week after KTN journalist Duncan Khaemba was arrested for allegedly being in possession of unlicensed helmet and bullet-proof vest while covering the violent post-election protests in Kibera, Nairobi.

Bullet-proof vests are classified as firearms and require licensing. He was released after his media house presented proof of licensing. The Wall Street Journal's Matina Stevis, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation's Simon Achola, and freelance journalist Neil Shea are among the reporters who complained to CPJ of being harassed by security personnel while covering the election.

The calls by CPJ come a few days after the International Federation for Journalists issued a similar statement condemning the appalling treatment of journalists by police officers and supporters of political parties during and after the elections.

"The Kenyan authorities must respect our colleagues' right to report freely, safely and without harassments," said International Federation for Journalists general-secretary Anthony Bellanger.

"This harassment of our colleagues, as well as the failure by authorities to protect the media from violent protesters is unacceptable," said Mr Bellanger said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of the presidential vote by the elections body, but the National Super Alliance (NASA)--the opposition coalition--has filed a petition at the country's Supreme Court, challenging his election.


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