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Owalo: Government will protect journalists

Kenya Editors' Guild President Churchill Otieno (left), ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo and Standard Group Editor-in-Chief Ochieng Rapuro.  [David Gichuru, Standard]

Calls for protection of journalists dominated celebrations to mark the International Day To End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists Wednesday, November 2, 2022.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo said Kenya Kwanza government holds dear the life of every journalist.

“We are saddened each time a journalist is endangered or harmed or killed in the course of duty,” said Mr Owalo.

He was speaking at an event organised by the Kenya Media Sector Working Group, which brings together several media associations including the Kenya Editors’ Guild, Kenya Union of Journalists, Association of Media Women in Kenya, Political Journalists Association of Kenya and Digital Broadcasters Association.

This year’s theme was “Protecting Media to Protect Democracy” and the slogan was “Knowing the Truth is Protecting the Truth.”

Two separate events were convened in Nairobi to mark the day. 

Owalo, who also asked journalists to avoid being sensational, said he was committed to working with the media in the interest of a free and just country. He went on to promise an open-door policy.

“The media and the government are complementary and should work in harmony to secure the interest of citizens. Where we have divergent views, it should be an opportunity to engage and craft a logical way of moving forward,” Owalo said.

The CS said his ministry will remain vigilant to protect journalists against rogue elements in the government who use their individual capacity to oppress journalists.

The celebrations come after the recent killing of a Pakistani investigative journalist Arshad Sharif in the country.

Speaking at a separate event organised by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), Dagoreti MP John Kiarie, who is the National Assembly ICT Committee chairman, said crimes against journalists should be prevented and perpetrators brought to book.

“The assumption that we need to be suspending our laws on certain matters on certain reasons with the most dangerous one being the electioneering period, where also there is a lot of threats and harm to journalists should not be accepted,” said Kiarie.

Kiarie said Parliament is ready to change the laws that infringe on rights and freedoms of journalists and asked MCK to engage with the committee.

“Come to us, let us analyse what is happening and see if there is legislative gaps that we can fill and if there is quick wins, we are ready to sponsor these pieces of legislation and immediately push for their enactment and implementation,’’ he added.

Victor Bwire, MCK’s director, media training and development, said there are about 22 laws that are old and work against press freedom.

MCK Chief Executive David Omwoyo said they had discussed ways of closer collaboration with the Council of Governors.

‘‘We agreed if possible to have a hotline and media desk at CoG for immediate reports to any threats to journalists in counties,’’ he said Omwoyo.