Violations of press freedomAs a result of the flaws in the constitution, the media has been left vulnerable. The following are instances of violations of its freedom.4.5.1 Arrests and detentionJournalists work in an increased hostile environment during the electioneering period. In 2017, cases of arrests and detention of media persons were very high. They are not free to dig deeper into issues that are politically driven in the country as the politicians incite their supporters who in turn attack them. Two NMG journalists, Larry Madowo and Linus Kaikai, were forced to sleep in their offices for fear of being detained.
This is because the two had authorized the live covering of the opposition leader Raila Odinga’s mock swearing. Earlier on, the government had summoned editors and managers of media houses to State house and warned them against giving live coverage of the mock swearing or they face dire consequences4.5.2 Physical and verbal attacks Journalists are usually attacked physically or verbally whenever they report on matters that portray the government negatively.
As such they self-censor themselves for fear of their lives.Journalists are usually attacked when in the field due to stories they had reported before. Unfortunately, they are attacked by law-makers state officials and even the security forces. Sometimes the attacks happen when people of interest don’t want the media to cover certain events. NMG reporters were chased out of Nyeri County Assembly early 2017 by the county’s Speaker because of aa story they had done exposing corruption in the county in terms of allowances and mismanagement of funds. Similarly, Olivia Odhiambo, a reporter from SG was attacked by Usenge ward representative for running negative stories of him. He was slapped by police officers who then forced him into a government vehicle. He was taken to Usenge Administration Police (AP) post where he was beaten and tortured for four hours.Journalists pay heavily when they cover election events for the opposition as they are usually attacked, intimidated or their equipment taken or destroyed by the security forces. For instance, Winnie Adeyo, a reporter with NMG was attacked by the police while covering Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) primaries in May 2017. The policeman grabbed her phone and deleted all photos she had taken at a voting station. Similarly, On March 26,2018, journalists were physically attacked by anti-riot police when covering the deportation of Miguna Miguna, a self-declared National Resistance Movement(NRM) member. Citizen TV’s reporter, Stephen Letoo, and NTV cameraman, Robert Gichira reported to have been attacked during the scuffleEmmanuel Namisi, a RMS reporter, sustained serious head injuries after being beaten by Bungoma County governor Ken Lusaka’s bodyguards in a restaurant on June 5, 2016 for accusing the governor of corruption in radio reporting.4.5.3 Threats and intimidationJournalists are not totally free to report on public finance. It emerged that although documents on county and national governments’ expenditure were easily accessible and available, the data was disguised and doctored in some instances. When journalists seem to probe deeper into the issue of public finance they are either threatened by the relevant authorities or asked to keep off. In the beginning of 2017, Francis Wangusi, the head of (CAK) banned the media from announcing elections results in order to avoid violence. Also, on August 13, Siaya senator James Orengo called for a boycott of NMG’s products and services claiming that the media house was favoring the ruling Jubliee party.Journalists have been on the receiving end if they do stories touching politicians and the influential negatively. For instance, an audio recording of a senior government official threatening Julius Wanga, a Daily Nation journalist over a story he had done about him surfaced on January 6, 2018. On January 26, top editors were summoned to state house by state officials who threatened to shut down and revoke their license if they broadcast live Raila’s mock swearing in.4.5.4 Government pressureThere is increased nature of self-censorship in journalists due to government pressureCritical reporting led some journalists to face disciplinary actions. Some of them for instance Godfrey Mwampembwa, left NMG in 2016 amid allegations of government pressure on the media house. Godfrey was a cartoonist with NMG and his work mostly criticized the government. Also, Denis Galava, a former NMG reporter was sacked early last year due to his editorial piece which seemed to criticize president Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.Three privately-owned television stations, Nation television (NTV), Citizen TV and KTN News, were switched off by the government on January 30 for defying state’s directive not to air live the opposition leader’s, Raila Odinga, mock swearing. Despite court orders directing the government to switch on the stations, they remained shut down for six more days.Such state interference continues being a problem in Kenya. KTN was forced to cancel the airing of a piece of investigative story, The Profiteers, touching South Sudan leaders who looted and stashed their money in Kenya. The television station had run promotional posts ahead of the airing of the story on October 7, 2018 4.5.5 AssassinationsIn extreme cases, journalists are killed due to the result of their work. In April 2015, John Kituyi who was the founder of Mirror Weekly, was murdered by unknown attackers. Also, Dennis Otieno, a freelancer, was killed at his home by unknown men who were demanding for certain photos that he had taken. According to Otieno’s wife, the attackers left with his equipment4.6 Economic environmentCounty governments usually allocate funds for advertisement and would threaten to withdraw advertisements whenever the media covered or published stories that portrayed the county governments negatively. Some of their colleagues lost their jobs to the behest of county executives for going to the press for negative stories while in extreme cases, a few have lost their livesmysteriously on the course of reporting on public finances. This finding supports Rusbriger (2017) who quoted David Makali, a former director of the Media Institute in Nairobi; Today, these new guys have perfected the art of censorship using the state levers of advertising and manipulation. You publish, the sanctions are immediate.As such, editors and supervisors require the journalists not to report on certain expenditure stories as the media house might lose advertisement revenue from the county government.The centralization of all government advertising into one agency, the Government Advertising Agency (GAA), put economic pressure on these media houses as they rely heavily on advertisements. Government adverts generated up to 30% of the media revenue.The government and the influential find chocking the media by denying them advertisements as the most effective tool of keeping the press in check.Cross-ownership of the media affects editorial decisions as the angle that a story takes is usually beyond the reporter once the story reaches the news desk. Journalists are forced to bow to the demands of their employers on matters business. Obonyo (2012) reports that vulnerability of independent journalists provide an opportunity for business interference in the media, including the influence exercised by the representatives of foreign capital. Media houses never sell news anymore but depend on stories that would raise revenues from any corner of the world, (Obonyo, 2012). 4.7 Freedom of the state owned media In Kenya, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) is the state owned broadcaster. The media house is largely not free due to interference from the government. Government censorship seems to escalate during the electioneering period in the country. KBC fails to offer impartial coverage as it is funded by the state. As such, there is lack of political will to reduce political interference at KBC. According to article 34 (4) of the constitution of Kenya (2010) state-owned media should be free from State’s interference. However, this is not the reality. The State requires both the television and radio station to give less airtime to the opposition and not to air live events from the opposition. Furthermore, they are required to run programs and disseminate information that only portray the positive side of the government.4.8 SummaryThe enshrining of the freedom of the media is a great way of protecting the media. This chapter sought to give a clear picture of the state of the media in Kenya with regard to its freedom and to perform its role as a watchdog. As it has been pointed out, certain limitations have been set by the constitution in order to protect the right of others. However, the flaws arising in the legal environment pertaining media freedom has resulted to various violations of press freedom in the country. Unfortunately, these violations are mostly done by state officials and law enforcers. In addition to that, the unconstitutionality of the laws put in place by the Kenyan parliament has proven to be problematic to journalists. by politicians or their supporters when they were at work. The August 2017 election period was very challenging to the media. Tension and fear of being attacked gripped journalists. This in turn affected how the media reported on the credibility of the elections. Physical attacks on journalists by security forces and politicians and the confiscation of journalists’ equipment are a norm of election campaigns in Kenya. This explains why Kenya was ranked 66th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index. It was at 84 in 2012 with 0 being the worst and 120 being the best but dropped significantly in president Uhuru’s term
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