The dangers journalists, teachers face at work
What you need to know:
- Violence against teachers has been on the rise in Kenya since schools reopened last September following a six-month lockdown due to the Covid-19 crisis.
- In the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic, violence against journalists doubled compared to six months prior.
- Article 19 East Africa recorded 51 violations against journalists in Kenya including arrests, threats and physical assaults during the Covid-19 pandemic, from May 2020 – April 2021.
What do you think are the most dangerous jobs in Kenya?
I asked a cross-section of Nairobi residents this question and the top five answers were police officers, soldiers, miners, doctors and boda boda riders.
None of them brought up journalism or teaching but the professions are increasingly becoming more dangerous in Kenya.
On average, a journalist is killed every five days in the course of their work globally.
From intimidation to hostile work environments, journalists in Kenya are exposed to many safety concerns. Article 19 East Africa recorded 51 violations against journalists in Kenya including arrests, threats and physical assaults during the Covid-19 pandemic, from May 2020 – April 2021. Nine of the complainants were female journalists.
In the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic, violence against journalists doubled compared to six months prior, according to the non-governmental organisation.
The freedom of the media has deteriorated since the Jubilee administration was sworn into office in 2013. Kenya was ranked 102 out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index compared to position 71 in 2013.
Africa is the most violent continent for journalists, according to the index that evaluates the press freedom situation in countries. About 33 journalists have been killed on the continent since 2016, shows figures from Journalists Without Borders, an international NGO.
A Senior Investigative reporter at NTV, Seth Olale, was ambushed by gunmen while on a four-day assignment investigating how sugar and rice from Asia were being illegally repackaged at Mombasa ports in packets and sold in stores. Having AK-47s pointed at him by armed men was scary.
“At night, a land cruiser blocked us on the road and armed men came out of the vehicle with AK-47assault rifles. They asked us what we were doing there without identifying themselves. I gave them my Nation Media card and told them I was a journalist. The gunmen made calls before releasing my crew and I,” recalls Olale.
On April 24 this year, police beat and injured nine journalists in Embu County while they were covering the forceful eviction of families from a contested land, said to belong to Tana and Athi River Development Authority.
It was the second time police beat journalists covering stories on the land. Almost a year earlier, police assaulted and arrested three other journalists reporting on a demonstration by residents over the demarcation of the land. In the two incidents, the arrested journalists were later released without charge.
Attacks on journalists have increased over the years and, on average, a journalist is killed every five days in the course of their work globally, shows figures from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Journalists are exposed to danger as they go about their work covering stories even in non-conflict situations like Kenya.
Kenya Editors’ Guild (KEG) President, Churchill Otieno, said KEG is working on strategies to ensure that editors and journalists have room to operate out of their own free will and that the organisation will go to court to ensure this is guaranteed.
“We take a dim view of journalist attackers who want to block information from the public. They need to understand that information will come out regardless of the attacks,” he says.
On September 9 last year, the Council of Governors issued a statement warning media houses regarding their coverage of corruption scandals involving governors.
More recently, on March 4 this year, supporters of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) attacked four journalists covering the London ward by-election in Nakuru County. The journalists, who were injured, reported the matter to the police but no further action was taken.
“The latest incidents involving the police aim to impede journalists and media practitioners from carrying out their duty to inform the public, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic,” said Media Council of Kenya Chairman Mr Maina Muiruri while addressing the media in Embu last October.
Violence against teachers
The classroom has become a dangerous place for teachers with student violence against teachers on the rise in Kenya since schools reopened last September following a six-month lockdown due to the Covid-19 disease.
So bad are the attacks that on June 30 this year, Mr Pius Mugambi, a teacher at a school in Isiolo North Constituency, was attacked by five men including one of his students after he disagreed with him over a one-student one-plate-food policy.
On June 10 this year, Ainamoi Secondary School principal was attacked by a student in Kericho County. The student hit the principal on the head with a piece of wood, with a four-inch nail sticking out, after he was sent home to collect his school fees balance.
From January to June this year, at least 12 teachers were attacked and threatened by their students, shows a Newsplex review of media reports. Eight of the teachers sustained serious injuries while the remaining four were victims of attempted assault. The students attacked their teachers with knives, physical force, nailed wood and machetes.
Two of the teachers that were seriously injured were attacked by primary school pupils while the other six were assaulted by learners in secondary school.
Kabianga High School Deputy Principal Maurice Mahinda says the disruption of normal school routine led students to become bored and experiment with new things like drugs.
“Students are defiant and some throw shoes at me! I believe the rising cases of violence against teachers is because students were not engaged throughout the lockdown period and they were free to do whatever they pleased,” he said.
Mr Mahinda said the Ministry of Education should employ more teachers to guide and counsel learners. “Peer counselling should be offered where students who did very well are posted to their former schools for a period of six months to guide their peers,” he recommended.
But it is not just students who are responsible for violence against teachers. Figures from the Education ministry reveal that 32 teachers were killed in targeted attacks in the North Eastern region in the last five years due to terrorism.
On January 13 last year, three non-local teachers were killed by suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Kamuthe Primary School, Garissa County.
Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha, claimed that some locals were complicit in the killing of the non-local teachers.
In a press statement the Teachers Service Commission urged teachers to remain calm as it was working with security agencies to address the violence at the school.
“Minor indiscipline cases like fighting are being reported to the authorities nowadays so students no longer fear the police,” says the Executive Secretary for Kenya National Union of Teachers Macharia Mugwe.
The economic hardships that parents faced last year due to Covid-19 where many lost their jobs may be overwhelming to the students therefore, they act out at school,” he said.