Kenyan government on the  spotlight over harassment of journalists

Journalists in Mombasa hold demonstrations to demand speedy investigations into the mysterious deaths of their colleagues in September 2016 PHOTO:COURTESY

Mombasa,KENYA:The Kenyan government has been put on the spotlight over alleged harassment of journalists in the East African country.

In a report titled ‘Not Worth The Risk’: Threats To Free Expression Ahead of Kenya’s 2017 Elections,”  released by  watchdog organizations, Human rights watch and Article 19 on Tuesday, the Kenyan government is accused of threatening freedom of expression ahead of the August polls.

The accusations are tabled in a 53 page report where 92 people who include Journalists, bloggers and human rights activists were interviewed   with the organization documenting more 19 cases in which 23 journalists were assaulted by officials linked to the government between 2013 and 2017 .

Police officers in the country have been accused of laxity in investigating cases of harrasement and threats against journalists.

Henry Maina the Regional director of article 19 in East Africa said that it would be futile for the government to address the issue if they were unwilling to investigate individuals mentioned in such cases.

“No policy to address the situation can be successful if measures to prevent aggression against and to protect at-risk journalists are not accompanied with thorough and timely prosecutions of all crimes committed against them.” Henry said.

Otieno Nalwaya a researcher at Human rights watch urged the government to allow for freedom of speech without reprisals so as to ensure credibility in the upcoming elections.

“For Kenya’s August elections to be credible and fair, the media needs to be able to report on pressing issues of national interest without fear of reprisals,” Nalwaya said.

The report comes a few months after journalists both in the capital Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa held demonstrations to demand speedy investigations into the deaths of two of their colleagues who died under mysterious circumstances in September 2016 with government officials promising investigations into the matter.

According to the reports by New York based Committee to protect journalists, in regards to censorship of the media, the country has performed relatively well in comparison to neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea which have been ranked among the 10 most censored countries in the world  with Eritrea being the most censored just ahead of North Korea.

However the Kenyan government has not yet responded to the allegations in  the report.