- Law enforcers should deal with threats to journalists immediately after they occur instead of leaving them to fester.
- As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, let us not tire of reminding the government of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom.
We are marking World Press Freedom Day amid a number of challenges faced by Kenyan journalists.
Threats to media workers’ freedom have increased in the recent past and these range from physical attacks to intimidation, layoffs, low pay and punitive laws.
Today, the safety of journalists is at an all-time low and this calls for immediate attention from the powers that be— law enforcers, government leaders and media leaders.
Law enforcers should deal with threats to journalists immediately after they occur instead of leaving them to fester.
Journalists covering Azimio “Maandamano” have been subjected to unprecedented brutality by law enforcers and in some cases by the demonstrators.
Several journalists sustained serious injuries during the protests and had to receive specialised care. This is unacceptable and must stop forthwith.
Articles 33 and 34 of the Constitution guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of the media, while Article 35 guarantees the right to access of information.
With such laws in place, let journalists do their work without interference. Even the Penal Code proscribes assault against people going about their business.
Sources of threats to journalists are well known, and most of them hold important positions in the current administration. This, therefore, calls for intervention by the highest office in the land. Threats to journalists extend beyond physical attacks.
The adverse economic environment that has hit major media houses directly affects journalists’ welfare and exposes them to the so-called brown envelope, which emasculates some when it comes to talking honestly and freely.
How can a journalist who relies on a source of information for a lift or for his/her only meal of the day be expected to expose such an official? (We have clear guidelines against the brown envelope).
The Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism forbids journalists from being cozy with (powerful) sources/subjects of information, especially of the adverse type.
Seeing the cash stranglehold media houses face also affects training institutions in that they have challenges in terms of equipping future journalists for the task ahead.
The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is: “Shaping the Future of Rights- Freedom of Expression as a driver for all other human rights.”
The Bill of Rights in the Constitution of Kenya is explicit on the entrenched right of the media to operate without hindrance, along with rights to freedom of expression and the right to receive and impart information granted to all.
Article 34 (2) makes it clear that the State shall not interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, 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 or publication.
As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, let us not tire of reminding the government of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom.
A free press is a reflection of a democratic society. Let’s all do our part in supporting the work of journalists.
(The writer is the Kenya Editors Guild President Zubeidah Koome)