Kenya: Attack on journalists adds to concerns for press freedom

ARTICLE 19 condemns the brutal assault on journalists at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on the night of 26 March 2018. The journalists, Stephen Letoo, Robert Gichira and Sophia Wanuna, were assaulted by the General Service Unit (GSU) as they were covering the return from Canada of opposition member Miguna Miguna. We urge the government to investigate the incident and bring those responsible for the attacks against the journalists to account.

Stephen Lettoo, a news reporter at Citizen TV and Robert Gichira a cameraman at the Nation TV were subjected to kicks and beating with clubs, and had to seek medical attention following the incident. The attack also resulted in the damage to their equipment. Sophia Wanuna, a senior reporter from the Kenya Television Network (KTN) was slapped by a GSU Officer in the incident.

‘We condemn the brutal attack on the journalists who were rightfully undertaking their work to keep Kenyans informed on a matter of public interest. This flies in the face of the promises of the government to uphold and respect press freedom, coming only months after the government’s media shutdown’, said Henry Maina, Regional Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.

Miguna Miguna had previously been deported by the Kenyan government for his role in the swearing in ceremony of the opposition leader Raila Odinga as the ‘peoples president’. The high court however, ruled that the deportation was illegal and ordered the Kenyan government facilitate his return. Miguna has been detained at the airport since his arrival.

The rise in the attacks on media and violations of press freedom in the country has been a growing concern in recent months, the foremost of which was the unprecedented step taken to shut down broadcasters for covering events related to the so-called swearing in ceremony of Railia Odinga, which lasted for several days and denied the public access to information on a matter of public interest.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Kenyan government to uphold freedom of the media and to end attacks on journalists carrying out their work. The government must work to create an enabling environment for journalists to carry out their work, without threat of attack or criminalisation.