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Probe harassment of journalists after poll, remove safety hoops, CPJ tells Kenya

Kenya should investigate the harassment of journalists who covered the aftermath of the election, the Committee to Protect Journalists has said.

NASA candidate Raila Odinga’s supporters held protests after Uhuru Kenyatta was granted a second term as president.

The demonstrations increased after Raila disputed IEBC’s announcement that Uhuru got 8,203,290 votes and Raila 6,762,224.

KTN journalist Duncan Khaemba was apprehended for taunting police while covering demonstrations in Kibera, Nairobi.

Khaemba and his cameraman David Oketch were charged with possession of a helmet and body armour without a license.

He was later released on a police bond of Sh3,000 each and police told CPJ the charges were dropped on August 15.

Read: KTN journalist Khaemba arrested while covering Kibera protests

Angela Quintal, the committee’s Africa Program Coordinator said authorities should reform Kenya’s Firearms Act to lower barriers on journalists’ ability to wear protective gear.

The Act classifies bullet proof vests as firearms and stipulates that no one may acquire or possess them without a license.

But in New York on Friday, Quintal said: “Journalists must be permitted to report without fear of violence or hindrance from security forces or anyone else.”

She added that Kenyan authorities should make sure journalists are not harassed with impunity as the public has the right to information.

Khaemba said he had a copy of the end-user certificate for the gear he had at the time of his arrest. But Kilimani OCPD Joseph Muthee said he also needed a licence.

‘JOURNALISTS INTIMIDATED’

In the week following the election, CPJ spoke to 10 journalists who said they were assaulted or harassed on the field.

The committee reported that the media professionals were also targeted for attack and intimidation during the pre-election campaign period.

Matina Stevis, Africa correspondent with The Wall Street Journal , told CPJ an police officer hit her over the head with a wooden stick on August 12. The helmet she was wearing protected her from injury.

On that day, freelance journalist Neil Shea, who was shooting a documentary in Kibera, told CPJ he was attacked by four or five security officers who beat him and destroyed his camera.

Shea said another officer, who was familiar with his work, rescued him but that by then his memory cards were gone. He said he did not know who took them.

KBC reporter Simon Achola said security personnel took his phone and deleted his photographs of the protests.

According to media reports, police also harassed Citizen TV reporters at Miruka Hotel in Kisumu.

More on this: Outcry after police block journalists from covering Kisumu demos

“Authorities in Kenya and elsewhere should remove the bureaucratic hoops that make it difficult for journalists to keep themselves safe while working in hostile conditions,” Emergencies Director Maria Salazar-Ferro said.

‘HARASSMENT UNTRUE’

But Interior ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka denied that security officials deliberately targeted journalists who covered the chaos that followed the election.

Although he declined to comment on specific cases, he told CPJ altercations between police and journalists began when security officials tried to move reporters from dangerous areas.

“By and large I can tell you it is unfortunate that journalists have been injured in those situations. We would encourage anybody who says they’ve been hurt by police or anyone else [to] record statements, and we will investigate.”

The Independent Policing Oversight Authority said it will investigate police misconduct but noted they have not received complaints from journalists.

At least 24 people have been killed since the August 8 vote, many of them shot by police.

But while there have been scattered protests in Raila’s strongholds, the demonstrations were relatively muted as supporters waited to hear what the Opposition leader would say about their next step following the loss.

Raila said the National Super Alliance will seek redress through the Supreme Court, calming fears that further street protests by his supporters might lead to widespread violence.

More on this: NASA will challenge Uhuru win at Supreme Court – Raila

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