Threats against journalists unacceptable
Whenever Journalists are targeted just on the basis of their reporting as it happened recently involving Embakasi East Member of Parliament Babu Owino and Citizen TV’s news Editor Muraya Kariuki, it not only brings chills down my spine but also brings into sharp focus the country’s level of democracy and whether the country appreciates free press.
It brings chills because I am not sure if I or any of my colleagues will be next in the never ending statistics of threats against journalists especially as we approach the 2022 General election where most of us journalists live in constant fear of being attacked or even killed.
You see while the media may not be embraced by all in society, it is still a critical tool in the society.
Freedom of the press is key in that it plays a big role in keeping the government on check by monitoring its actions and also in informing citizens about public affairs.
“Journalism is a profession and not a crime. We will continue discharging our work as it ought to be, we will not be threatened,” George Otieno a reporter from Baraka FM in Mombasa was quoted while demonstrating against media harassment in Kenya in September 2016.
“Those who attack journalists do want to ensure that certain information is not made public. Instead of dealing with the information that is reported by the journalist, they do attack the journalist who has brought the information to the fore,” Henry Maina, the then Regional director Article 19 Eastern Africa was once quoted.
On 6th September 2021, Citizen TV’s senior news Editor took to social media accusing Embakasi East MP Babu Owino of sending him threatening messages over his work at the media house.
“I just received a very nasty phone call from a person who introduces himself as Hon Babu Owino on +254711111311 this has to do with the work I do. It is not good manners to try scare lowly journalists. tunaomba tufanye kazi kwa amani,” he tweeted.
But in a quick rejoinder Babu said he would not shy away from exposing Muraya alleging he was being paid by Deputy President’s allies to malign Opposition leader Raila Odinga.
“One mongrel with a bird’s brain holding diploma in journalism who is paid by DP to mess and/or soil the otherwise good name of @citizentvkenya is Muraya Kariuki .Rotten to the core.” he tweeted.
This back and forth altercation between the two parties led to the Media council of Kenya’s intervention where it demanded that the MP withdraws the threats and issue an apology to the Journalist further advising Babu to lodge a complaint with the Media council complaints commission if he felt aggrieved.
“Politicians cannot on their own accord term the media as unprofessional. Such action amounts to taking the law into their own hands and proceeding to pronounce judgment on an issue they are not made to prosecute,” MCK stated.
Babu’s case is among numerous cases that have been reported in the country on threats against journalists. on 3rd June 2019, two KTN Journalists were attacked by students of St Stephen’s girls secondary school in Machakos county while pursuing a story of a form two student who was reported to be missing from the school two days after reporting back from half term break.
On January 2018, Deputy President’s spokesman David Mugonyi threatened to sack Nation Journalist Justus Wanga over a story he had written suggesting that there was a split between his boss William Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta over new cabinet nominees announced by the President.
These attacks on journalists have now been normalized in this country because the attackers are not brought to book to face charges. And despite such cases being reported to concerned authorities like the weekly citizen newspaper’s reporter Francis Nyaruri’s case who was found murdered in Kodera forest in in 2009 over his expose about financial scams by police departments, little is ever done.
This year 2021, Kenya was ranked 102 out of 180 in the World Press freedom Index. The reason for the lowly rankings is because of the wearing down of media freedom in the recent years.
“The Political situation and security concerns have been used since 2016 as grounds for restricting the freedom to inform,” Reporters without Borders said.
The Index too listed Uganda and Tanzania as countries that have done little in matters press freedom. In August this year for example, Tanzania’s government suspended Uhuru newspaper for allegedly publishing a false story on President Samia Suluhu, claiming that she will not run for office in 2025. and just few days ago 6th September 2021 Tanzania’s government again suspended for 30 days Raia Mwema newspaper for running what it called false information, This move definitely not signaling a departure from her predecessor’s actions towards the media.
“President Samia Suluhu Hassan has not said any information that she does not have intentions to contest for Presidency in 2025,” Tanzania’s Government spokesperson Gerson Msigwa said in a statement.
Acts of intimidation against Journalists in Uganda is not a new phenomenon, on 17th February 2021 for example, Ugandan military dissented on journalists using batons and sticks covering opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine while he was delivering a petition to a United Nations UN office in Kololo.
On the other hand as we approach the August 2022 general election, I urge my colleagues to be more vigilant and be guided by professionalism lest we are nicknamed “Githeri media’ WHICH I STRONGLY DETEST.
VIDEO THE DAY; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoX-WMcd-Po
BY WEMA TOYWA #WEMA’STAKE