Journalists and editors have alleged a plan by the government to shut down the internet and some media houses ahead of the fourth round of opposition demonstrations on Monday.
Under the auspices of the Kenya Media Sector Working Group, the media stakeholders strongly called out Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and pockets of senior Kenya Kwanza Alliance officials for attempting “to deny the free flow of information to the public”.
“We have received reports of plans to shut down the broadcast media and the internet and throw the country in information darkness ahead of tomorrow’s demonstrations. This will be most ill-advised and a grievous assault on Kenyan democracy because it denies the citizens and the public their right to information. From a media perspective, taking this route will sink us all as a country,” President of Kenya Editors Guild, Churchill Otieno, said Sunday.
The Editors Guild is part of seventeen media associations that spoke jointly after a two-day meeting at Maanzoni Hotel in Machakos County in which they reflected on the state of the media in the wake of increased attacks and threats on the media and journalists covering the demonstrations by the Azimio coalition.
In case the government will interfere with any media house and journalist covering the Azimio la Umoja Coalition demonstrations, the media stakeholders have threatened a raft of measures including giving the government a blackout and staging a peaceful demonstration on Wednesday.
“If the police will attack journalists covering the demonstrations tomorrow and damage their equipment we shall personally sue the Inspector General of Police,” said Erick Oduor, the secretary general of the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ).
The associations which included KUJ, Association of Media Women in Kenya (Amwik), and Foreign Press Association of Kenya took great exception in the continued profiling of journalists by the DP and high-ranking government officials and attacks by police on journalists covering the Azimio la Umoja coalition demonstrations.
They called on the media not to be cowed from covering the demonstrations as they noted that Kenyans have a democratic right to peaceful assembly.
“We take great exception in the profiling of the media and blunt threats by the Deputy President, the Prime Cabinet Secretary and the Inspector General of the Police. Such sentiments coming from offices with the prime responsibility of protecting the media are shocking and unfortunate. We call upon all actors in Kenya to stop profiling and attacking journalists as an attack on journalists is an attack on our democracy,” Mr Otieno said.
“While the safety of journalists should be guaranteed, the Kenya Media Sector Working Group notes with alarm the increasing numbers of journalists targeted by law enforcement officers. Since the Azimio la Umoja coalition demonstrations began on March 20th this year we have documented more than 20 cases of attacks and violations against journalists including harassment, arbitrary arrests, and physical attacks with state actors responsible for encouraging a significant proportion of these attacks,” Mr Otieno added.
Further, the media stakeholders called on the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to give an update on the status of investigations so far and plan for the prosecution of the attackers.
“We hereby issue a seven-day ultimatum to the DPP to deliver a statement on the status of the investigation and prosecution of those culpable. We also ask the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to update the nation on the status of the investigation of police brutality against journalists,” said Patience Nyange, the executive director of Amwik as she called on the government to compensate journalists harmed while covering the Azimio demonstrations.