“When a journalist searches for truth, death often finds them instead,” the UNSECO website reads.
Today, the world is marking Social Justice Day. And it is quite in order to remember the cases of two Kenyan journalists who are among over a thousand others murdered in cold blood for unearthing what powerful people wanted hidden.
They were killed for speaking the truth, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) says in its #KeepTruthAlive campaign.
Their cases are yet to be resolved years after their grisly murder.
Francis Nyaruri and John Kituyi were victims of impunity for crimes committed against journalists. Their only mistake was to tell stories of corruption, trafficking, and violence.
Nyaruri was a writer for the Weekly Citizen newspaper under the pen name Mong’are Mokua.
He was known for a series of articles that exposed financial scams and other malpractice by the police departments.
The 1978-born Nyaruri left his Nyamira home on the morning of January 15, 2009, never to return. His body was found in a thicket in Kodera Forest, Nyanza two weeks later.
Police and lobby group reports indicate that he was beheaded while his hands were tied behind his back. There were marks on his already-composing body.
Nyaruri’s father Peter Nyaruri Tari told a court his son has received threats from a senior police officer over corruption stories published on the Weekly Citizen.
Official reports indicate that two suspects were charged with murder. However, they were acquitted in September 2015 for lack of evidence.
“In summary, this was an extremely cruel and terrible death of a young reporter with such a young family. The matter was poorly investigated,” ruled Judge H.K Chemitei.
Onto John Kituyi – a 63-year-old journalist based in Eldoret and owner of the regional Mirror Weekly. He encountered his killers on May 30, 2015 as they rode two motorbikes.
The International Press Institute notes his murder was orchestrated after he published an article of witnesses lined up in a trial at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) disappearing.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, radio presenter Joshua Sang, former minister Henry Kosgey, former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and former police Hussein Ali were facing crimes against humanity at the court.
The cases collapsed due to lack of evidence.
“Several cases of threats and disappearance of witnesses linked to the ICC trial have been reported since an investigation was formally opened in 2010,” writes IPI.
It adds: “Numerous journalists have reported being threatened and some said they were attacked in Eldoret.”
Kituyi was a correspondent of the Standard in the late 1980s.
A soldier, Nicholas Kavili was arrested and charged with the murder but he was acquitted in 2018 due to lack of evidence.
Both Nyaruri and Kituyi’s cases have remained unpunished to date with Kenya's envoy to UNESCO Ambassador Hellen Gichuhi assuring those investigations were still ongoing.
The duo is among more than one thousand journalists who have been killed in 12 years according to UNESCO.
According to a 2018 UNESCO’s report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, Arab and Asian nations have high numbers of cases involving journalists killings.
Africa has seven per cent of the cases with Somalia toping with 68 journalists murdered, notes UNESCO.
Where were these journalists killed?
“In war zones. But also at home. On the corner of the street. They were killed in cold blood. Deliberately. With impunity. To silence topics some people wanted to keep hidden,” says UNESCO.
Nyaruri and Kituyi’s unresolved cases add to a shocking UNESCO’s statistics which state that only one out of ten cases are resolved.
In order to protect journalists, UNESCO launched a campaign called ‘Keep Truth Alive’ to protect journalists around the world.