• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Kenya: IPI condemns attacks on journalists covering anti tax bill protest

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The International Press Institute (IPI) has strongly condemned violence against journalists covering protests in Kenya.

From June 18 to 25, amid demonstrations against a new tax bill, reporters faced assaults, arrests, and equipment damage from both security forces and protestors, the institute said in a statement released on Thursday.

IPI urged Kenyan authorities to immediately halt all intimidation and attacks on the press. It also asked the authorities to investigate these incidents, prioritise journalist safety, and guarantee unhindered access to information, including keeping the internet open.
“IPI is alarmed by the documented attacks on press freedom during the ongoing public protests in Kenya, a trend which was similarly noted during protests in the country in March 2023”, said IPI Advocacy and Partnerships Lead Nompilo Simanje.

Adding that, “The police continue to attack journalists with impunity under the guise of dispersing protestors and it is high time the perpetrators were held accountable. Rather than target the press, the police should instead guarantee the safety of journalists and allow them to carry out their role of collecting and sharing information, which is itself critical for public order and security.”

The press violence unfolded alongside a brutal police crackdown. Reports indicate several deaths and over 200 injuries inflicted by police during the initial protests. Abductions, disappearances, and arrests were also documented.

IPI confirmed at least 12 journalist assaults. Reporters from Associated Press (AP), Standard Group, Nation Media Group, Agence France-Presse (AFP), and KBC were all targeted. One columnist was even abducted and later found detained. A YouTube video captured a protester’s attack on a Citizen TV journalist.

“We are closely following the situation of the protests over the Finance Bill. We are saddened by the attacks on journalists covering the protests and call on the authorities to respect press freedom”, William Oloo, secretary general of the Congress of African Journalists, told IPI. “The attacks should stop and action should be taken against those who have attacked and injured journalists.”

Despite assurances of uninterrupted internet access, disruptions were reported. Millions were temporarily denied real-time protest updates. Also, authorities threatened to shut down KTN for its live coverage.

IPI echoes previous calls for Kenyan authorities to safeguard journalists’ ability to freely and safely report on public protests. The institute said the violence against the press is a disturbing trend, and IPI urged Kenya to uphold press freedom as a cornerstone of democracy.