The Media council of Kenya has come to the swift defense of journalists drawn from the Royal Media Services and Nation Media Group who have been threatened after reporting on emerging issues in the counties of Bungoma and Kisumu, respectively.
In a statement, the council said that its attention had been drawn to a threatening letter dated 12th June 2021 by the County Government of Kisumu to the Nation Media Group regarding a Covid-19 related documentary.
The Council took exception to the threats issued against Nation Media Group over a preview of the above documentary entitled “inside Kisumu’s Covid Isolation Ward (#fightforbreath), where the County Government of Kisumu raised concerns with how the journalists accessed the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching & Referral Hospital (JOOTRH), interviewed some patients and took video footage for the story.
“While the Council recognises the right of the County to demand ethical standards in journalism are upheld, it expects that the same shall be demanded of the County Government for violating freedom of expression, press freedom and access to information as provided for in the Constitution in articles 33, 34, 35 and the Media Council Act, 2013,” said David Omwoyo in a statement
“In this case where the County Government is aggrieved by the ethical standards observed by journalists and media enterprise, the County is urged to file a complaint with the Media Complaints Commission which is legally mandated to handle such matters under section 27 of the Media Council Act, 2013 and issue remedies as it deems appropriate,” he added
Omwoyo was emphatic that threatening journalists about their work or intimidating them not to undertake their duty especially on matters of public interest is a violation of Press freedom and the Constitution
No sooner had Omwoyo censured the Kisumu County than he had to do the same to Bungoma Governor Hon Wycliffe Wangamati who threatened Royal Media Services reporter Jimmy Simiyu over a story he has been pursuing.
“The Council is also aware of allegations that the Governor called the reporter to threaten him after an editor from the media house tipped him off about a story that the reporter had filed over an event held in Bungoma County on Saturday 12th June 2021,” said Omwoyo
As a first intervention, the reporter was advised by the Council to report the matter to police which was recorded as OB 16/13/6/21 at the Bungoma Police Station. Pursuant to the aforementioned, the Council states as follows:
- That the Governor henceforth desists from threats and respects the independence and freedom of all journalists.
- That the Inspector General of Police intervenes by ensuring that the matter is expeditiously investigated with the view of bringing all those involved in the alleged violations to account. In the meantime, the police must guarantee the reporter’s safety and security.
- That Royal Media Services takes measures to establish the truth behind allegations that one of its editors was involved in the transgression and if confirmed, takes disciplinary action against the said editor for interfering with the independence and freedom of the affected journalist and jeopardising his safety.
The Media Council of Kenya calls upon the public and various public governance levels, including County Governments, to refrain from threatening and obstructing journalists from undertaking their lawful roles. We remain committed to advocating for a safe working environment for Kenyan journalists.