Journalists are subject to harassment, assault, and violence while in the field and are without recourse to the state.
Detention, arrests, threats and assault are only a few of the issues Kenyan journalists face on a daily basis, the Human Rights Watch reported Friday, on World Press Freedom Day.
The human rights organization denounced the country’s blatant disregard for the safety of its reporters who are currently suffering a growing level of violence.
There are dozens of cases of journalists in the field being ambushed, beaten, and their equipment completely destroyed. However, media personnel are completely without recourse, as security forces, politicians and their supporters are among journalists’ greatest threat, the Media Council of Kenya said in its latest report.
In January, eight reporters were injured in Turkana county, northern Kenya, in just such an attack during a press conference for the former ruling party, KANU. Despite filing a report, no one was ever arrested, the HRW reported.
“The authorities should credibly investigate incidents of harassment and physical attacks against journalists and refrain from imposing any arbitrary restrictions on content,” the organization said on its website.
However, the sheer amount of restrictions implemented in Kenya was enough to award the country 100th place out of 180 countries with the highest press censorship, Reporters Without Borders said in their 2019 study.
Over the last year, online content producers, journalists and entertainment directors have been frustrated by bans preventing the circulation of their work, the HRW said.
Last May, bloggers were banned from posting their videos online unless granted permission by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB). The ban was eventually removed after calls from the public demanded it be disbanded. A month before, the board prohibited a screening of the film Rafiki due to a lesbian relationship featured in the film. The censor was also eventually removed five months later.
HRW's report firmly rejected the suffocating regulations, saying, “In the spirit of World Press Freedom Day celebration, Kenya needs to take steps to protect freedom of the press.”