Media Council condemns harassment of three journalists by police

Media Council of Kenya (MCK) chairman Maina Muiruri with Council’s liaison and partnerships engagement officer Stella Kaari address the press at Izaak Walton Hotel in Embu. [Joseph Muchiri, Standard]

The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) has called for swift investigation into claims that police officers harassed journalists who were covering a demonstration last week.

MCK chairman Maina Muiruri urged Eastern Regional Police Commander Eunice Kihiko to ensure any officers found culpable faces the law.

“This is the latest incident involving the police in a worrying trend that seems to be aimed at impeding journalists and media practitioners from carrying out their duty to inform the public, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mr Muiruri.

The MCK boss spoke at the Izaak Walton Hotel in Embu County. He was accompanied by Liaison and Partnerships Engagement officer Stella Kaaria.

"Police are supposed to facilitate the work of journalists and guarantee their safety and security as they carry out their important function mandated and protected by the Constitution of Kenya under Article 34," said Ms Kaaria.

The three journalists - Solomon Muriithi (Nation Media Group), Peter Mungai (Royal Media Services) and Brian Malila (County FM) were in Mbondoni area where residents were protesting the proposed demarcation of land owned by the Tana and Athi River Development Authority (Tarda).

The locals claimed there were plans to evict them from the property despite having occupied it for years. They turned their anger on a chief and two people they claimed were Tarda officials and beat them up.

The men were rescued by police officers who shot in the air before dispersing the protesters using batons. The security personnel then accosted the journalists who had recorded the incident and demanded that the footage be deleted.

When they declined, the three were roughed up, arrested, detained in a police car and their mobile phones confiscated. They were driven nearly 30km away and left by the roadside.

Luckily, a Good Samaritan drove them back to where they had left their vehicle. The journalists later recorded a statement at Kiritiri Police Station. They accused the police of trying to silence them despite identifying themselves as journalists.

Mbeere South Sub-county Police Commander Ahmed Mohammed said they would investigate the matter "before necessary action is taken." [Joseph Muchiri]