Kenya

Kenya and its press freedom commitment

In Kenya, a combination of legal and physical harassment makes it increasingly difficult for journalists to work freely. A CPJ special report finds that these restrictions on the Kenyan media come at a time when public discourse and transparency are essential, in light of hefty government spending on development, high-profile terrorist attacks, and the ongoing indictment of the deputy president by the International Criminal Court.

Gallery: Cartoonist Gado on the press
CPJ's recommendations

CPJ

Blog   |   CPJ, Kenya

Mission Journal: Will Obama's visit boost hopes for press freedom in Kenya?

Billboards at Nairobi's airport welcome Barack Obama to Kenya. (CPJ/Sue Valentine)

President Barack Obama is expected to address a range of topics when he arrives in Kenya tomorrow. The Kenyan government says it plans to discuss security and trade, while opposition parties and civil society want good governance and human rights added to the agenda, according to news reports. We hope the discussion includes the commitments to improve press freedom that the Kenyan government made to CPJ last week.

On July 15, we released our special report, "Broken Promises: How Kenya is failing to uphold its commitment to a free press," in Nairobi to a room full of more than 50 Kenyan and foreign journalists. The report found that a combination of legal and physical harassment, as well as concentration in media ownership, is making it increasingly difficult for journalists to work freely in Kenya.

Press Releases   |   Kenya

Kenya falls short on promises for press freedom

New CPJ report finds worsening climate for journalists in traditionally open Kenya

New York, July 15, 2015--A combination of legal and physical harassment, as well as concentration in media ownership, makes it increasingly difficult for journalists to work freely in Kenya, according to "Broken promises: How Kenya is failing to uphold its commitment to a free press," a report released today by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

July 15, 2015 5:23 PM ET

Reports   |   Kenya

Broken promises

How Kenya is failing to uphold its commitment to a free press

Kenya’s constitution guarantees freedom of the media, but President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee coalition has introduced several bills that undermine rather than enforce that principle. Journalists are vulnerable to legal harassment, threats, or attack, while news outlets are manipulated by advertisers or politician-owners. The deteriorating climate comes at a crucial time for Kenya’s democracy, security, and economy. A CPJ special report by Sue Valentine and Tom Rhodes

July 15, 2015 12:01 AM ET

Reports   |   Kenya

Broken promises

Introduction

On April 18, two journalists arrived near a state-owned ranch in Tana River County in southeast Kenya to investigate residents’ claims that local paramilitary police had impounded a large herd of cattle for allegedly trespassing and were demanding bribes to release the animals. Before the journalists got out of their car, about 15 officers attacked them, beating them with wooden clubs and metal rods, according to one of the journalists, news reports, and video footage of the attack. Both journalists were hospitalized, one with a broken leg.

Reports   |   Kenya

Broken promises

1. How media ownership and advertising curb critical reporting

Attempts to control the media in Kenya date back to at least 1929, with transmission of the first radio signal by the British East African Broadcasting Corporation, which served the interests of the colonial government. Throughout the country’s history, including independence in 1963 and the end of one-party rule in 1992, the press has largely served the interests of those in power, with leaders expecting loyalty and support, Kenyan media scholar Wilson Ugangu wrote in an essay published this year.

Reports   |   Kenya

Broken promises

2. Media contend with lawsuits, restrictive bills, legal limbo

Instead of passing new legislation in keeping with the new constitution’s guarantees for freedom of the press, the government has introduced a series of laws that undermine self-regulation and allow for harsh fines and even jail terms for journalists who commit perceived transgressions.

Reports   |   Kenya

Broken promises

3. Critical journalists silenced by threats of arrest or violence

Harassment of the press from official quarters does not begin or end with the passage of troublesome legislation. Journalists say they are routinely threatened, intimidated, and even attacked, and that government authorities are the culprit more often than not.

Reports   |   Kenya

Broken promises

Sidebar: Press phobia

By Argwings Odera

Journalists with foreign media credentials are finding it increasingly difficult to gain accreditation for covering events involving President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Reports   |   Kenya

Broken promises

Sidebar: Covering the International Criminal Court

By Robert Wanjala

When the International Criminal Court (ICC) began its investigations into the 2007-2008 post-election violence that killed over 1,000 people, it had wide public support. Kenyans desperately wanted to see justice for the atrocities that followed the disputed presidential election results in December 2007.

Reports   |   Kenya

Broken promises

Conclusion

The late political scientist Joel D. Barkan wrote in 2013: “Kenya is the anchor of eastern Africa and the region’s geopolitical and economic hub; conditions there determine the region’s stability, security, and prosperity.” Though Kenya’s 2010 constitution sought to ensure that the country’s media and its information, communications, and technology sectors develop and thrive, there are worrying signs that old efforts to control the media are undermining this freedom through the passage of poorly drafted and restrictive legislation, commercial pressures, and threats and attacks on individual journalists and bloggers.

More documents on Kenya »

Social Media

View all »