1 November 2017

Kenya: Keriako Tobiko Orders Probe Into Attack On NTV, Citizen TV Journalists

Photo: Tonny Omondi/The Nation
Journalists react after they were teargassed by anti-riot police who did not want to be filmed during a demonstration in Kisumu on October 13, 2017 (file photo).

The Director of Public Prosecutions has asked the Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet to investigate the Tuesday incident in which two journalists were harassed by Nasa supporters in Nairobi.

The DPP, in a letter to IG Boinnet, said the investigations should be done with the aim of charging the suspects in court.

The two, Citizen TV's Francis Gachuri and NTV's Jane Gatwiri, were roughed up by youths who accused the media of bias in reporting the Thursday's fresh presidential election in which President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner.

While Nasa leader Raila Odinga condemned the incident and apologised on behalf of the coalition, critics have argued that the attack points to a growing trend in which journalist find themselves on the receiving end of politicians and the police.

END IMPUNITY

And as the world marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2, focus will be on finding ways to end the crimes and find justice for the victims.

Now in its 11th year, the day, celebrated every second day of November, seeks to highlight some of the crimes committed against journalists and shine a light on those who have endured torture, intimidation, forced disappearances among others, in the line of duty.

ARREST CULPRITS

"I am directed by the Director of Public Prosecutions to direct you to immediately and urgently commence thorough investigations into the incident and ensure that those found culpable are arrested and arraigned before court," said Mr Nicholas Mutuku, the deputy DPP.

The Kenya Editors Guild, the Kenya Union of Journalists and the Media Council of Kenya, described the Tuesday incident as a criminal act and asked the Nasa leadership to identify the culprits and hand them over to the police.

"The safety of our reporters is paramount and the Editors Guild will no longer subject them to the risks posed by mobs such as witnessed at the Wiper party headquarters today," said Editors Guild chairman, Linus Kaikai on Tuesday.

In the past two months alone, at least three cases of harassment against journalists have been reported from across the country, with the perpetrators identified as police and politicians mobilising supporters to attack the reporters.

HARASSED

In Kisumu, for instance, five journalists were harassed, beaten and injured by police while covering demonstrations against the electoral commission last month.

The five, NTV reporter Ouko Okusah, his cameraperson Doreen Magak, Rushdie Oudia (Daily Nation), Rashid Ronald of KTN and Faith Matete of TheStar, were mobbed by about 20 officers from the General Service Unit.

A journalist in Bungoma had his mobile phone confiscated by a group of irate youths during the August elections.

The phone was later thrown into the fire, according to a report by the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

DISTURBING

"Recent attacks and intimidation of human rights defenders and journalists follow a disturbing public and social media campaign that negatively profiled the role of civil society in Kenya which was perpetuated by the political class," said Mr Kamau Ngugi, Executive Director, NCHRD-K.

The United Nations General Assembly estimated that at least 115 journalists were killed in 2015 alone, making it the second deadliest year over the last decade, after 2012 when Unesco tallied 124 killings.

While some of the assaults, especially those meted on the journalists during political rallies, have been blamed on supporters of politicians, critics have accused politicians of fuelling the attacks.

Mr Kaikai, who is also the NTV managing director, argues that the attack on journalists is part of a growing culture of intolerance, political and ethnic profiling of journalists in the country.

RIGHTFUL DUTIES

"This culture must be brought to an end and journalists be allowed to perform their rightful duties wherever they must, including political events," he said.

Daily Nation's Samwel Owino and NTV's Andrew Ochieng, were in August, forced to flee from a political rally in Kibera after youths allied to Nasa threatened to attack them.

This was after Siaya senator James Orengo accused the Nation Media Group of bias in reporting the August 8 elections where Mr Kenyatta was declared winner of the presidential poll.

The election was later nullified by the Supreme Court on grounds of illegalities and irregularities committed by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Mr Oloo Janak, of the Kenya Correspondents Association, argues that whereas freedom of speech is enshrined in the Constitution, little regard has been accorded to journalists in this regard.

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