Kenya Media Sector Working Group has claimed that there is a plot to shut down the broadcast media and internet ahead of the anti-government protests.
The group warned that the planned shutdown of the media will plunge the nation into "information darkness."
Speaking at a hotel in Maanzoni, Machakos on Sunday, April 2, Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) president Churchill Otieno criticized plans to shut down the media saying it will deny the free flow of information to the public.
“We have received reports of plans to shut down the broadcast media and the internet and throw the country in information darkness ahead of tomorrow’s (Monday, April 3) demonstrations. This will be most ill-advised and a grievous assault on Kenyan democracy because it denies the citizens and the public their right to information. From a media perspective, taking this route will sink us all as a country,” said Mr Otieno.
He warned that if police attack journalists covering the demonstrations and damage their equipment, they will hold peaceful protests on Wednesday.
Otieno called on all actors in Kenya to stop profiling and attacking journalists saying it is an assault on democracy.
"Let them know that we will issue them with our notice of countrywide protests should any of us be hurt," he said
“If the police will attack journalists covering the demonstrations tomorrow and damage their equipment we shall personally sue the Inspector General of Police,” said Kenya Union of Journalists secretary general Erick Oduor.
Citing last Thursday's incident that he said documented more than 20 cases of attacks and violations against journalists, including harassment, arbitrary arrests, and physical attacks, the Editors Guild President demanded that the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), the Inspector General of Police and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) ensure accountability for all threats and violence against journalists through impartial, prompt, thorough and independent and effective investigations.
Kenya Media Sector Working Group also demanded that the Government commits to compensating journalists who were attacked and injured by police, including paying for their medical treatment and replacing damaged or lost equipment, failure to which media houses will consider giving a black out to all government events.
"We call upon them to bring to book the perpetrators behind attacks while ensuring access to effective remedies and compensation to the victims," Otieno said
The group gave the DPP, a seven-day ultimatum to deliver a statement on the status of the investigations and prosecution of those culpable.
They also called on Ipoa to update the country on the status of the investigation of police brutality against journalists.
“We hereby issue a seven-day ultimatum to the DPP to deliver a statement on the status of the investigation and prosecution of those culpable. We also ask the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to update the nation on the status of the investigation of police brutality against journalists,” said Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) executive director Patience Nyange.
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The group also asked media houses to ensure that there are clear safety and protection protocols before they deploy journalists to cover situations that are potentially violent as has been witnessed in the past two weeks and asked them not to be cowed from covering the demonstrations.
“We take great exception in the profiling of the media and blunt threats by the Deputy President, the Prime Cabinet Secretary, and the Inspector General of the Police. Such sentiments coming from offices with the prime responsibility of protecting the media are shocking and unfortunate. We call upon all actors in Kenya to stop profiling and attacking journalists as an attack on journalists is an attack on our democracy,” Otieno said.
The Kenya Media Sector Working Group comprises of journalists and stakeholders from 17 bodies including, the Kenya Union of Journalists, AMWIK, the Political Journalists Association of Kenya, and the Kenya Parliamentary Journalists Association among others.
“We hereby issue a seven-day ultimatum to the DPP to deliver a statement on the status of the investigation and prosecution of those culpable. We also ask the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to update the nation on the status of the investigation of police brutality against journalists,” said Patience Nyange, the executive director of Amwik as she called on the government to compensate journalists harmed while covering the Azimio demonstrations.