Special Reports

Kenya

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.

Reports   |   Kenya

Broken promises

Corruption, the government, and press freedom are frequent subjects for Godfrey "Gado" Mwampembwa, a political cartoonist in East and Central Africa. Gado, whose work appears in The Nation and other Kenyan and international newspapers, shares a selection of cartoons on the 2013 Kenyan election and problems facing the country's press.

Reports   |   Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Uganda

Journalists in exile 2013

Somalis, Syrians flee violence; Iran crackdown deepens

Fifty-five journalists fled their homes in the past year with help from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The most common reason to go into exile was the threat of violence, such as in Somalia and Syria, two of the most deadly countries in the world for the profession. Others fled the threat of prison, especially in Iran, where the government deepened its crackdown ahead of elections. A CPJ special report by Nicole Schilit

Syrians take shelter at a refugee camp near the border with Turkey. (Reuters/Muhammad Najdet Qadour/Shaam News Network)

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