Kenya: COVID-19 - Backlash After Journalists Barred From Turkana Hospital

Backlash has followed Turkana County's order that barred journalists from accessing Lodwar County Referral Hospital to highlight Covid-19 preparedness.

The journalists visited the hospital on Wednesday for a spot check to ascertain availability of ventilators, personal protective equipment, functional isolation facilities and an operational Intensive Care Unit beds.

But county Health Executive Jane Ajele ordered the hospital management not to allow the media to proceed with their mission.

Security guards and hospital administrator Simon Loyara blocked the journalists at the administration block following "express orders from above".

"The Health executive asked me to order you to immediately leave the hospital as you are not allowed to cover anything about it," Mr Loyara said.

CRITICAL ROLE

The civil society led by Eliud Emeri, Executive Director Turkana Bio-Aloe Organisation, condemned the move, noting the matter is of grave public concern.

Mr Emeri noted that the media and the civil society play a critical role in ensuring counties execute their mandate.

"The Constitution is very clear in Articles 33 and 34, on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Media respectively. The journalists must be allowed to access a public facility to get information for public consumption."

He said they were aware of the press statement delivered by Governor Josphat Nanok on the level of preparedness to curb spread of the coronavirus, but that it must be backed by pictures and videos through the media.

Resident Dahill Lonyangalima noted that President Uhuru Kenyatta directed Kenyans to stay at home, "therefore denying media access to cover Covid-19 preparedness is denying us access to information".

Mr Lonyangalima added that while at home, the public wants assurance that their counties can handle cases of the disease.

Governor Nanok promised to allocate more funds for completion of the ICU at the hospital.

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