Kenya has been ranked 116th out of 200 countries in terms of limited press freedom, according to the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders. The report cites the murder of Pakistani Journalists and political pronouncements against the media as contributing factors to Kenya’s low ranking. This ranking raises concerns about press freedom and the safety of journalists in Kenya, who are frequent targets of violence during public protests and civil unrest.
Journalists covering demonstrations in Kenya have become frequent targets of violence. In March 2023 alone, at least 45 cases of attacks on theft, harassment and physical attack on journalists have been reported. While the media plays a crucial role in reporting on public protests and civil unrest, attacks on journalists have raised concerns about their safety and the freedom of the press in the country.
Zubeida Kananu, President of the Kenya Editors Guild, was speaking during an interview with Jeff Koinange on Citizen Tv and said attacks against journalists provide insights into the risks that journalists face when covering demonstrations and protests. These attacks include beatings, destruction of equipment, detention and confiscation.
Oloo Janak, Chair of the Kenya Correspondents Association, spoke during the same interview and said demonstrators attack journalists as a way to intimidate the media.
“People think journalists are biased hence giving out negative information about the media. They shut the media saying certain information ought not to go to the public hence creating a climate of fear and self-censorship among journalists limiting their ability to report important events.” He argued.
Some protesters view journalists as biased or unreliable and may attack them to prevent them from reporting on the demonstration.
The police may view journalists as a threat to their operations and may attack them to prevent them from filming or documenting their actions. Some police officers may also see journalists as sympathetic to the protesters and may target them as a result.
Patience Nyange, Executive Director of The Association of Media Women in Kenya, spoke during the same interview and stated that these attacks can have consequences for journalists.
“Journalists have reported being attacked in various ways during demonstrations including physical assault, verbal abuse and damage to their pieces of equipment. These can have serious consequences for the journalists’ safety and mental health, as well as their ability to report on future events.” She said.
Attacks on journalists during demonstrations in Kenya are a serious issue that requires attention and action from all stakeholders. Journalists play a vital role in informing the public and holding those in power accountable, and their safety should be protected at all times. By understanding the reasons behind these attacks, we can work towards finding solutions that promote press freedom and protect the rights of journalists.
Article by Priscilla Kaigai, AMWIK Member