The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) have today expressed serious concerns about the intimidation of journalists in Kenya and some provisions of the country’s media bill. The IFJ/FAJ stance follows the summoning and questioning of journalists about their work in relation to the terrorist attacks in Nairobi in late September.
In a joint statement, the IFJ and FAJ said that security forces must stop intimidating journalists over their reporting of looting and disarray during the coverage of the Westgate mall in Kenya.
According to IFJ/FAJ affiliate, the Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA), media freedom in the country has been seriously undermined after police summoned Kenya Television Network (KTN, private) journalists, John-Allan Namu and Mohammed Ali, over their report on the Westgate Mall looting by army officers. The network’s CEO, Sam Shollei, has also been summoned but is out of the country.
The journalists are expected to appear before the police today, Monday 28 October. Government officials including the President have defended the Inspector of Police David Kimaiyo over the matter.
On 21 September 2013, unidentified gunmen claiming to be members of the Islamist group al-Shabaab attacked the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The attack, which lasted until 24 September, resulted in at least 72 deaths. The attackers held hostages and later engaged in gun battles with Kenyan security forces. Over 200 people were reportedly wounded in the mass shooting, according to reports. There was very important coverage from both local and international media.
“Journalists and all media practitioners have done their duty in professionally covering the Westgate mall attacks. What they reported was indeed what happened. They must not be intimidated for the way they covered the events,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director.
“The IFJ and the FAJ join their affiliate KCA to stand by all journalists in Kenya. Kenya has not the right to lag behind in respecting and promoting press freedom. Journalists must work without any fear as enacted in the country’s constitution”, said Mohamed Garba, FAJ President.
“The journalists have done their duty to the nation and the world, by providing information about what happened and the police should stop any attempt to intimidate them through summons or calls for their arrest under whatever pretext,” said KCA Chairman William Oloo Janak.
Janak said the attempt by the police to criminalise media coverage of the Westgate mall, and the claims that the journalists lacked patriotism, was diversionary and an attempt to deflect attention from the credibility issues facing the security forces over their handling of the mall terror attack saga.
“Our concerns are not only with the threats from the police, but also about the Media Bill which is now before parliament,” said KCA chairman William Oloo. “We call on the National Assembly to review the sections that give the government more power in the Bill which pose threat to media freedom.”
“The threats of arrest by the Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo against the journalists and the subsequent summoning of the two and the Standard Group Chief Executive can only be seen as part of a wider plot by the government to muzzle media freedom, a move that must be resisted by all believers in press freedom,” added Janak.
KCA is concerned that the police should seek to gag the media over the Westgate Mall terror attack at a time when the security forces owe the nation answers over their handling of the issue and more particularly the conduct of the army officers during the security operations