Opinion: Intimidation of journalists unacceptable :: Kenya – Africa-News

Siaya-based Standard journalist Isaiah Gwengi PHOTO:COURTESY

The attack on Siaya-based Standard journalist Isaiah Gwengi by Administration police officers because of a story he filed on police brutality once again brings to the fore the level of vulnerability of journalists in Kenya.

It is encouraging that Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet has promised speedy investigations into the matter. Police officers who violate the rights of others must be held accountable.

The cases of Reuben Ogachi and Arthur Okwembah, the journalists based in Malindi who were attacked and badly injured by police officers, has yet to make any progress.

Also, the cases of Francis Nyaruri and John Kituyi, who died in unclear circumstances in Kisii and Eldoret respectively, have yet to be concluded.

Hopefully, the police will get to the bottom of this matter this time round.

But there are fears that the situation of journalists might get worse.

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Concern for the safety and protection of journalists has in many cases affected quality of reporting, which is detrimental to the realisation of the rights enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Respect for the fundamental rights of all people is an essential feature of any democracy. Indeed, a raft of laws at the international, regional, and national levels has been developed to guide the promotion and realisation of these rights.

The Constitution of Kenya, for example, states that the Bill of Rights is an integral part of Kenya’s democratic state. In addition, to the protections provided by Article 33 and 34 to journalists, they are also protected under the right to life, the right to work, and other related labour laws of the land.

In 1997, Unesco member states passed Resolution 29 on “condemnation of violence against journalists”.

The resolution was adopted by the states in response to serious concerns about the killing of journalists in many countries and the evidence of the spread of impunity – that is, the persistent failure of the lawful authorities to bring those responsible to justice. UN Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006) condemns attacks against journalists in conflict situations.

Provisions protecting the right to life, personal liberty and integrity, freedom from torture, freedom of expression, and the right to an effective remedy which are incorporated in international human rights law instruments provide journalists with the necessary guarantees against violation of their rights and risks to their safety.

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights guarantees individuals against arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, establishes an absolute prohibition of torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment, guarantees the right to liberty and security of the person, and freedom of expression.

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The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity captures the international legal regime and philosophical underpinnings that journalists and other media professionals perform and serve in the discharge of their roles and functions:

“The Safety of journalists and the struggle against impunity for their killers are essential to preserve the fundamental right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of expression is an individual right, for which no one should be killed, but it is also a collective right, which empowers populations through facilitating dialogue, participation and democracy, and thereby makes autonomous and sustainable development possible.”

The likely increase in the threat to journalists because of the August 2017 election calls for proactive measures to address safety and protection concerns for journalists, including proper documentation and trend analysis of any incidents and increased public awareness on such happenings.

The measures should involve all the stakeholders, including the government, media owners, journalists, and civil society groups.

 

 

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