Kenya: Journalist assaulted and injured by police officers

ARTICLE 19 is dismayed by the brutal assault of Isaiah Gwengi, a journalist working with the Standard Media Group in Siaya County, at the hands of Police Officers. Gwengi, who was doing a story on police brutality and harassment in the County, was arrested while interviewing human rights activist Robert Ochieng on the evening of 22 March in Usenge.

The journalist and his companion sustained severe head and body injuries inflicted by 7 Police Officers who allegedly confiscated their phones, arbitrarily detained them, and beat, stripped, and taunted them.

“We strongly condemn any brutality against journalists, especially by police officers whose duty is to protect. We call upon the authorities, specifically the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), to immediately investigate this case, including allegations of torture, and bring those responsible to justice. We also urge the police to thoroughly complete all pending investigations of attacks against journalists and ensure that justice is achieved for victims,” said Henry Mania, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.

ARTICLE 19 commends efforts by the Media Council of Kenya and the Kenya Union of Journalists, who intervened and managed to secure the journalist and his companion’s release. We urge the media community to work together in continuing to promote and defend freedom and independence of the media.

Article 33, 34 and 35 of the Constitution safeguard Kenya’s freedom of expression, free and independent media and access to information. The state and every organ of the state has an obligation to respect, protect, and promote the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Constitution, including freedom and independence of the media.

Article 34(2) emphasises that the State shall not exercise control over or interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of information by any medium; or penalise any person for any opinion or view or the content of any broadcast, publication or dissemination. As much as the law requires the Government not to interfere with the work of the media.

However, journalists in Kenya are increasingly experiencing first-hand how these rights are being restricted, and it is becoming virtually impossible for them to carry out their legitimate profession. They face serious challenges in the course of their work, with State actors contributing to an increasing number of threats, incidents of harassment and intimidation as well as legal and personal attacks.

ARTICLE 19 condemns the police’s continued harassment and intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders, and calls upon the National Police Service, the National Police Service Commission, the Independent Police Oversight Authority and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to ensure that this incident and others like it are thoroughly investigated and that those responsible are prosecuted.

 

For more information please contact: Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa by email on henry@article19.org or call +254 727 862230