Article 34(2) of the Kenyan Constitution states that, the state shall not interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, production or circulation of any opinion or view or the content of any broadcast or publication or the dissemination of information by any medium; or penalize any person for any opinion or view or the content of any broadcast or publication. This constitutional provision has been violated today as Journalists covering the anti-government protests today were attacked by both the police and the protestors.
In the midst of the ongoing demonstrations, journalists were attacked by goons in Kibra, and their equipment was stolen. Royal media services team from Citizen and Inooro televisions were attacked as they were covering the demonstrations, some of the protestors pelted the vehicles that they were using with stones and shattered the windows of the vehicle that they were using. This attack led to the injuries of journalists among them a foreign journalist who is currently nursing injuries.
The journalists also lost personal belongings like wallets and press cards to the goons who attacked them. Their tools of trade like microphones, cameras, and phones were also not spared. The attack in Kibra was not an isolated case as other Journalists from the Nation Media Group were attacked in Ruiru as they were covering the northlands that had been invaded by hundreds of goons at former president’s Uhuru Kenyatta Farm and were looting from the farm and cutting down the trees.
Elsewhere in the Central Business district of Nairobi, photojournalists from the Nation media group were harassed by the police officers, and their cameras were confiscated and asked to delete all the photos that they had taken of the demonstrations. Other two journalists from the Africa Uncensored media were also arrested and their press cards were destroyed.
The Media Council of Kenya and the Editors gild have condemned the attack on journalists saying the violent attacks on journalists by the police have increased and worrying. The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) has been mandated with the responsibility to promote and protect the freedom and independence of the media and today through their CEO, Mr. David Omwoyo has warned that these attacks cannot be tolerated and the violence meted out the journalists by the police undermines press freedom while limiting the publics access to information. Mr.David said these attacks violate human rights and can cause physical and psychological harm. He added that journalists should be allowed to carry out their work without fear or violence and harassment.
The head of the Editors Guild Mr. Churchill Otieno, in a statement noted that the attacks on journalists by the police amount to assault and are against the constitution which guarantees media freedom. He further added that the bill of rights in the Constitution of Kenya has explicitly entrenched the right of the media to operate without any hindrance, along with rights to freedom of expression and the right to receive and impart information granted to all Kenyans. The guild has called on the state to act firmly and decisively against rogue police officers who have offended the constitutional provisions of the media in Article 34(2).
The editor’s guild has demanded that journalists should be allowed to do their work without the interference of the police, instead the police should accord the journalists the necessary security that they need.