At least 7 cases of violence against journalists were reported in Nakuru county between January and September this year. This, according to a report by Article 19 makes the county the third most dangerous county for journalists to work in.
The report titled ‘Silenced and Intimidated: Attacks on Freedom of Expression in Kenya’ and which was released on Monday November 2 reveals that Nairobi is the most dangerous county for journalists to work in in the country. At least 23 incidences of violations were reported in the city county between the same period. The county of Uasin Gishu in which a journalist, John Kituyi, was killed in April this year is second. It recorded 8 cases in the same period.
Among the cases that made Nakuru appear in the top three slots is an incidence in which Peter ole Sono, a politician, shot at journalists who were covering a protest following allegations that he had grabbed public land in Gilgil in May.
The report also cites a summon by detectives against Nakuru Standard Group Bureau Chief Alex Kiprotich in the same month to reveal sources of a security story he had reported.
The report comes at a time when the county was just settling down on a case against a Citizen T.V cameraman Evans Asiba who in the month of September was assaulted by police while covering a story at Lions Primary School.
Apart from Asiba, long time journalist Elijah Kinyanjui was also summoned by detectives and later charged in court on information he posted on a social media platform he runs about allegations that a local politician was involved in grabbing land.
Suleiman Mbatia and Boniface Thuku who work as photographers with Nation Media Group and Standard Group respectively in the county have also been attacked by the police in the past.
In total 65 attacks were reported during the period but only 42 were “officially reported or recorded”.
“Attacks were carried out by government officials, security agents and organized mobs – including college or university students in a manner which clearly demonstrates a sustained crackdown – to stifle and control the press, and limit the free flow of information,” the report says.
The most dangerous stories for journalists to cover according to Article 19’s findings are: corruption, protest, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and devolution.
“Introduction of devolution has also opened journalists to a barrage of new sensitivities and security challenges: they are being forced to grapple with competing political and inter-ethnic interests, hindering objective reporting on complex local politics,” the report adds.
The report calls for the need to prosecute those responsible for the attacks.
“Failure to bring those responsible for attacks on journalists to account sends the signal that the media can be silenced through violence, and will ultimately lead to many journalists resorting to self-censorship, hampering the realization of the right to free expression.”
“The Kenyan government must take the necessary steps to ensure that journalists are free to carry out their work. A free press cannot thrive in an environment in which journalists are under severe and constant attack: this undermines freedom of expression, and democracy, in the country,” the report further reads.