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Violence against journalists increases ahead of Kenyan elections

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the increasing level of violence against journalists ahead of the national elections in the country in March 2013. A series of threats and attacks have been reported this month, including assaults by security officers and members of the public towards journalists who are covering political events. ARTICLE 19 calls on the Director of Public Prosecutions to launch prompt and effective investigations into all cases of violence and to hold those responsible to account.

“It is worrying that as the country nears the general elections, cases of journalists being intimidated and threatened are increasing. In this month alone, we have had seven reported incidents of journalists being assaulted, threatened and intimidated while in the line of duty.” said Henry Maina ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Director.

On 20 January 2013, it was reported that two journalists from Nation Media Group, Dennis Okeyo and John Otanga, were physically assaulted and injured by General Service Unit officers as they covered riots in Kibera slums in Nairobi. The officers confiscated memory cards from their cameras along with other valuables.

On 18 January, it was reported that journalists for the Kenya Television Network were assaulted by political supporters of a prospective election candidate, whom they caught on camera bribing voters near Lang'ata West Primary School in Lang'ata Constituency.

Six journalists from a number of media houses narrowly escaped death on 12 January, after Orma youths at Odha village in Tana Delta district attempted to attack them during a peace meeting they had gone to cover.

“These are just but few cases that have been reported and we predict they will increase in number and frequency as the elections draw near” added Maina.

ARTICLE 19 has also observed the intimidation of journalists. Some political parties have sought to prevent journalists from reporting on the nomination process for prospective election candidates, as the media houses that they represented were not perceived to be supporting certain candidates.

On the 18 January, journalists for Royal Media Services were denied access to Moi Avenue Primary Polling station by suspected supporters of The National Alliance Party because the station was viewed to be supporting a rival Presidential candidate.

Police Spokesperson Eric Kiraithe pledged to investigate and punish all perpetrators in cases of violence against journalists at a roundtable discussion organised by ARTICLE 19 on 12 December 2011. ARTICLE 19 calls on Kiraithe to stand by this promise.

ARTICLE 19 also calls on the leaders of political parties in Kenya to denounce violence carried out by their supporters, and to respect media freedom and recognise the public importance of journalists to ensure the flow of information during the election process.

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