The attack on Siaya-based Standard journalist Isaiah Gwengi has once again brought the fore the level of exposure and vulnerability of journalists in Kenya.
The journalist was attacked by Administration Police officers on Wednesday in relation to a story he did on police brutality. It is encouraging that Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet has already promised speed up investigations into the matter, with a view to taking action.
People including police officers who violate the rights of others must be held accountable; they cannot continue hiding behind the State. A number of such cases where individual officers would have been held responsible have not been acted on before and journalists have raised the issue with the relevant offices.
The case of Reuben Ogachi and Arthur Okwembah, journalists based in Malindi who were attacked and seriously injured by police officers, is yet to make any progress.
In addition, the cases of Francis Nyaruri and John Kituyi who died in mysterious circumstances in Kisii and Eldoret respectively, are yet to be concluded. Hopefully, the police will get to the bottom of this matter this time around.
There are fears that the situation of journalists might get bad because of the extreme political positions by various political leaders, and ownership structures of the media.
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Concern for safety and protection of journalists has in many cases affected the quality of reporting, which is detrimental to the realisation of rights enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19(2) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
Respect for the fundamental rights of all people is an essential feature of any democracy. Indeed, a raft of laws at international, regional and national level has been developed to guide promotion and realisations of these rights.
The Kenya Constitution for example states that the Bill of Rights is an integral part of our democratic state. In addition to the protection provided by Article 33 and 34 to journalists, they are also protected under the right to life, right to work and other related labour laws of the land.
In 1997, UNESCO Member States passed Resolution 29 on “Condemnation of violence against journalists”. The resolution was adopted by states in response to serious concerns about the killing of journalists.