Smartphone journalists must stand their ground if confronted by police

Plainclothes policemen roughed up Nation Media Group smartphone journalist Mwangi Muiruri

Plainclothes policemen roughed up Nation Media Group smartphone journalist Mwangi Muiruri last week. He was covering Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s wife, Dorcas Rigathi, distributing relief food in Gatanga, Murang’a County.

Photo credit: File

Journalists using smartphones to report the news must stand their ground when confronted by security agents. The law is on their side.

The Constitution forbids government agents from interfering with their work. But, maybe, not so fast; they might get hurt. The environment is hostile and impunity reigns supreme.

Witness the astonishing video clip showing four plainclothes policemen roughing up Nation Media Group smartphone journalist Mwangi Muiruri last week. He was covering Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s wife, Dorcas Rigathi, distributing relief food in Gatanga, Murang’a County. 

In the video, his media badge is clearly visible. Yet he was physically assaulted and verbally abused, though he posed no danger to anyone, as Media Council of Kenya (MCK) CEO David Omwoyo said after the nasty incident.

Mr Muiruri was molested, no doubt, because he was using a mobile phone. Consequently, MCK has asked the public, police officers and security guarding VIPs to recognise that journalists today use mobile phones as standard tools in their profession. Mr Omwoyo said smartphones are used to take photos and videos, record voice clips, broadcast live and provide links.

He regretted that the attack by the state agents occurred under the new Kenya Kwanza administration. “There is an emerging trend where policemen in plainclothes guarding senior government officials act with impunity and attack journalists in contravention of known laws and norms,” he said. “This is shameful, regrettable and worrying.” 

Mr Muiruri was frogmarched and handcuffed by the DP security detail. One of the policemen, young and athletic-looking, pounced on him, slapping and bulldozing him as he was being held by his colleagues. 

Mr Muiruri has been assaulted several times before for recording events using his smartphone. But the latest assault has caught the attention of the nation. MCK’s publication, Media Review, said the video clip of “highly trained and armed police officers pulling, shoving and raining blows on an unarmed and defenceless NMG reporter sent a chill down the spines of journalists and citizens across Kenya.” 


The Standard said, in an editorial on Monday titled ‘Leave journalists alone’, that the assault “once again shows how contemptuous some police officers are of journalists and the journalism profession.” 

The newspaper demanded that those who attacked him be prosecuted. I wish the Nation also took a public stand on the matter.

Mr Muiruri represents the best in mobile phone journalism. Smartphone journalists, also known as mojos, have revolutionised journalism by changing the way we consume news and the way content is produced. With a smartphone, a journalist can write and send with speed a story to be published. They shoot and edit videos and still pictures in record time. 

Armed with a smartphone, a journalist can write and take photos without having to carry huge and expensive camera equipment. Increasingly, the smartphone is becoming the primary tool, and a powerful one, for gathering and disseminating news. 

Mr Muiruri is a good example of a prolific mojo. He has written nearly 1,000 articles — news and opinion pieces — for the Nation, mainly on politics, business, sports and lifestyle. Though he is based in Murang’a as a correspondent, his appeal is national.

He creates content for all platforms—print, online and broadcast. Trained at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication as a digital journalist, he uses his Tecno smartphone which cost him Sh23,000 to great effect. 

Mr Muiruri writes highly readable stories of great human interest. One of his recent top-ranking stories (in terms of attracting readership) is headlined ‘The kiss of poverty that drained man’s Sh700,000’ (Daily Nation, Nov. 22, 2022).

The story is incredible and well-written. The photo illustrating the story, which he took with his smartphone, is so telling. 

So why would DP Gachagua’s security detail want to silence the mojo? Mercifully, the Independent Police Oversight Authority has said it’s investigating the incident. The police officers who assaulted Mr Muiruri are clearly recognisable from the video clip. Will they be brought to justice? Your guess is as good as mine.


Expunge sycophantic columns

During the campaigns, UDA complained about media bias against them. I understand NMG made deliberate efforts to give columns to UDA apologists. After they won, they do not deserve these columns. Commentaries in praise of the government should be allowed only when the government does something outstanding. Nothing is worse for a newspaper than pro-government propaganda. A sitting government deserves more criticism than sycophancy. Please expunge these columns.

--Daniel Njaga


John Kamau’s article was awesome

John Kamau’s article, ‘How Kenya’s tourism is crafted on colonial image of the exotic Maasai’ (Sunday Nation, November 13, 2022) was just awesome. I usually peruse the front page to make sure he has posted an article. When I don’t see one, I walk away from the vendor in misery.

---Dr Vilembwa, Webuye Hospital.


Intermittent grammatical errors 

I am writing to express my displeasure with regard to the intermittent grammatical errors in your publication, The Weekly Review, and NTV. A case in point is when the first edition of The Weekly Review had articles with editing notes. NTV on the other used the infinitive inappropriately. It pains me to see the disregard to basic rules of grammar. 

--Karobia Waweru


Prof Kagwanja versus Prof Mutua

I refer to ‘Never attack fellow columnist: The case of Prof Kagwanja v Prof. Mutua’ (Daily Nation, Nov. 25, 2022). I personally enjoyed the retort by Prof Peter Kagwanja for its educational value. I think at some point, Prof Makau failed to sew his case properly. I think this is a rare case. NMG did a good thing to allow Prof Kagwanja’s retort to print.

– Peter Githuku Mungai


I totally disagree with Prof Makau. Kenyans are not interested in his criticism of Kenyan democracy. He was an Azimio supporter and has never accepted defeat. He had only one vote which was lost as he couldn’t reason with the Hustler Nation. Kenyans need leadership skills, not books.

--Mbui Nyaga Mzea


Prof Mutua’s column should be terminated with immediate effect. The lawyer is always biased, exhibiting election bitterness. Can Senior Counsel Ahmednassir take over the column?

--Richard Mwaniki

The Public Editor is an independent news ombudsman who handles readers’ complaints on editorial matters including accuracy and journalistic standards. Email: [email protected]. Call or text 0721989264