How journalists were caught in crossfire

A screenshot lof a police officer captured firing a tear gas at a vehicle used by journalists during the Azimio antigovernment protests on March 27, 2023.

What started as a peaceful demonstration led by opposition leader Raila Odinga turned ugly when police confronted protestors at Kware area in Nairobi on Thursday afternoon.

The officers had barricaded the road, blocking Raila's convoy from entering Donholm Estate after he had addressed crowds at Imara Daima, Pipeline, Mukuru and Kware areas.

At the time, KTN cameraman Timon Abuna and NTV's Eric Isinta were atop a press car from where they were filming the events. They were injured by teargas canisters lobbed at them by police as they recorded the ugly confrontation between the security personnel and demonstrators.

Felix Ocholla, who works in the Azimio la Umoja communication team told The Saturday Standard that police officers attacked the vehicle they were using with Isinta and Abuna. "It was unfortunate that the police could deliberately target journalists who were just doing their work," said Ocholla.

Raila had left his Capitol Hill office shortly after 1pm. His convoy snaked through the city centre before joining Mombasa Road. And unlike two previous demonstrations, the police did not block them from accessing the city as they proceeded to Imara Daima where Raila and his team addressed peaceful crowds.

All through Mukuru Njenga, Pipeline and Kware Estates, it was calm as the Azimio leaders addressed their supporters who were chanting slogans calling on the government to lower cost of living.

Trouble started when the demonstrators passed outside Kware Police Station where the officers fired in the air to disperse the crowd which up to this point was in a carnivore mood.

"The police officers lobbed several teargas canisters into our vehicle forcing the driver to stop after which we scampered for safety but Abuna and Isinta remained at the top recording events and that's when the officers turned on them," said Ocholla.

He said a police officer in civilian clothes broke the window of the vehicle and lobbed several teargas canisters in it.

Ocholla said at least four vehicles belonging to Raila were extensively damaged, pointing an accusing fingers at security officers.

KTN's Abuna said he was hit by a teargas canister on the head by a police officer who clearly targeted him, and in the process the helmet he was wearing came off.

"Several TV cameramen had taken a vantage position on top of the Azimio communication vehicle since it was positioned where they could get the best shots of the event. That is why I left the Standard Group vehicle," said Abuna.

He said his colleague from NTV was also hit with a teargas canister directly on the face and although he had a protective helmet, it was blown off by the impact.

The two journalists were rushed to a hospital at Fedha Estate.

The Standard team's bid to transfer Abuna to another medical facility was delayed for more than two hours as the team was unable to break through the mass of police and demonstrators.

An ambulance that was to transfer the journalists to another health facility had to wait as the angry youth lit bonfires protesting what they termed as the shooting of some peaceful demonstrators by the police.

On Wednesday, a senior police officer had warned journalists that they are exposing themselves to danger by covering "illegal demonstrations".