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State harassment: Kenyan Journalists continues to suffer… Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by KOKONYA O PATRICK, Kenya Mar 2, 2007
Citizen Journalism   Opinions
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The Kenyan Government has on several occasions subjected journalists to undue harassment, exhibiting an unhealthy discomfort with the media. Ironically, most journalists are still young. Indeed, they are the source of revenue for the media houses they work for, and by extension contribute to the growth of the economy. Ironically, they are also the least paid yet they go out there to get stories. They report whilst we clobber them into poverty! This is shameless indeed.
As a young Kenyan leader, I am compelled to share this agony – the disenfranchisement of journalists in my country. Of course I am aware that the media more often than not, shapes the destiny of a nation by the content of their work.
I will highlight a few areas of concern that my young colleagues in TIG and other interested parties can rally behind me to hold our government accountable – not only to the people but also to their right to access the right information.
The presidential guard – who take care of H.E President Mwai Kibaki’s security details – have not been any better to these young journalists. It has on several occasions used the bizarre excuses of State security to harass journalists covering the President’s functions. The Standard Group has particularly bore the brunt of unnecessary harassment from the Government. By the way, I do not write or associate with the profits of these media houses. Well, I take this as an initiative to protect our fellow citizens in the fourth estate against state machinations. They are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins; the list is endless. Above all, they are citizens whose rights must be protected at all cost by all and sundry.
On March 2, 2006, Kenyans woke up to the shocking news of a Government attack on The Standard Group, during which KTN (Kenya Television Network) was switched off air, the printing plant disabled and tens of thousands of newspapers set ablaze. This had a negative impact on our economy and foreign investors.
At presidential functions, it has become almost impossible to photograph or film the President, yet Kenyans demand to know what and where their Chief Executive is. He was employed to serve us not himself and those milling around him – holding onto his political coat for survival, for I know, their days are numbered. But we do not have to wait for the end time. Action is now from all stakeholders. It is time we all owned up and reconciled for the good of tomorrow’s generation.
Various political leaders and civil society organizations have regularly condemned the physical harassment of journalists covering presidential functions but this seems to fall on deaf ears. Is a revolution the way out?
Last September 13, security officers roughed up journalists at a presidential function in Nairobi. In fact, three presidential guards manhandled Standard photojournalist, Ms Rebecca Nduku, and confiscated her camera, accusing her of taking pictures of the president’s limousine. This is a very young journalist just learning her best ropes to availing information to the people. Should we at TIG keep silent when the rights of one of our own are violated? We cannot pick arms in retaliation but we can let the truth flow around the world on these abuse. Where are the youth to speak out for their peers? At TIG, we are the voice of the voiceless wherever they are regardless of their colour, sex, status, nationality or creed. Must the old finish the young in name of protecting the positions “we” bestowed upon them to govern? These are hard questions that need concrete answers now not tomorrow.
This infection from the state harassment law enforcing clique against the fourth estate has caught up with all the leaders who initially won the heart of Kenyans. As if learning new lessons from their colleagues moments later, the security detail of Internal Security minister, Hon. John Michuki, physically assaulted NTV cameraman, Mr Eric Okoth, for trying to interview their boss. This is blatant abuse of office by any words!
Later that month, the State terminated charges against three Standard journalists accused of publishing an alarming report. The decision to was seen as victory for freedom of the Press but only for a while. Group Managing Editor, Mr Chaacha Mwita, Alternate News Editor Weekend editions, Mr Dennis Onyango, and reporter, Mr Ayub Savula, had been put on trial for allegedly publishing an article on a meeting at State House between President Kibaki and Mwingi North MP and ODM Presidential Aspirant Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka. The article in question appeared in The Saturday Standard of February 25 last year.
Standard journalist, Ms Evelyn Kwamboka, was last year in court being compelled to disclose the source of her story headlined "Deya miracle babies adopted by a German couple". According to the story, one of the miracle babies at Nest Children’s Home, which is subject of a court case, had been given to a German couple.
And last October, KTN’s award-winning newscaster, Mr Swaleh Mdoe, was arrested. He was taken into custody on the orders of the Immigration Department, which is said to have had questions regarding his immigration status. The popular KTN Leo news anchor was at first held at Kilimani Police Station before being transferred to Kileleshwa. He was released days later, and only after public outcry. Yes, public outcry. We at TIG can also stage an international outcry for the protection of our journalists. They surely ensure flow of information. I know, responsible journalism is key, but the state must not overlook the rights of her citizens – the right to a fair hearing in the court of law without interference.

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