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Media freedom in Kenya suffers setback

AP
Kenya's National Assembly passes legislation that will effectively silence critical reporting with a new government-controlled regulator and the threat of exorbitant fines. The laws set a bad precedent for other East African countries.
Press takes to the streets
Fear of laws is bad enough
Media bill alarming

Omwa Ombara left Kenya for the United States. (CPJ)

EDITOR'S NOTE: February 15, 2014 marked one year since Omwa Ombara arrived in the U.S. to seek political asylum after attempts on her life in Kenya between May and December 2012. She fled her native land after being contacted by International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators probing the violence that followed the Kenyan elections in 2007-2008, in which more than 1,000 people were killed, according to news reports. Ombara was never a witness, nor did she ever meet any ICC investigators, but the mere suspicion that she was participating in the ICC process prompted a spate of threats. She describes her own ordeal and the culture of silence that has settled over most of the Kenyan media. CPJ's Journalist Assistance program supported Ombara throughout her ordeal.

Should journalists expect support and protection from security agents when they risk their lives to report on security operations? What if their coverage could potentially expose military strategies? Why are journalists disparaged as unpatriotic when they show how security operations fail?

Coverage of rape can bring journalists swift and unpredictable repercussions, but it can also change attitudes. By Frank Smyth

Women march for justice and security in New Delhi on January 2, 2013, following the funeral of a student who died after being gang-raped. (Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

The printed word is thriving in parts of Africa, but advertisers' clout means they can often quietly control what is published. By Tom Rhodes

Kenyans read election coverage in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, the capital, on March 9, 2013. One reason that advertising revenue trumps circulation for East Africa's newspapers is that readers often share papers to save money. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
Kenyans read election coverage in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, the capital, on March 9, 2013. One reason that advertising revenue trumps circulation for East Africa's newspapers is that readers often share papers to save money. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

Journalists protest outside a government building in Kenya. (CPJ)

Nairobi, December 5, 2013--Kenya's National Assembly today passed contentious anti-press legislation, the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Act and the Media Council Act, which will effectively silence critical reporting through a new government-controlled regulator and the threat of hefty fines.

A banner tied to the gates of Parliament protests a media bill under review. (CPJ/Tom Rhodes)

"Mr. President, you gagged us!" said a banner tied to the gates of Parliament today. Kenya's Editors Guild and the Kenya Correspondents' Association organized peaceful demonstrations across the country to protest a media bill currently under parliamentary review. Protests were held in every county in the country, according to William Janak, chairman of the correspondents' association, including roughly 80 to 100 protesters in the port-city of Mombasa, 100 in the central city of Kisumu, and 400 in the capital, Nairobi.

Kenyan journalists' protests in 2007 warded off a new media law. (AP)

Few in Kenya's media could comprehend how a media bill, considered the most repressive in Kenya's 50-year history, could sail so easily through Parliament last week. Fittingly, Parliament passed the Kenya Information and Communications Amendment Bill on Halloween. It is awaiting President Uhuru Kenyatta's signature following a 14- day deliberation period.

Nairobi, November 1, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the parliamentary passage of the Kenya Information and Communication Amendment Bill on October 31 that will severely curtail press freedom in Kenya.

In this screenshot, Kenyan Police Chief David Kimaiyo holds a press conference on October 23 in which he harshly criticizes the press. (K24TV)

On Wednesday, David Kimaiyo, Kenya's inspector general of police, launched a tirade at the Kenyan press, threatening to arrest and prosecute two journalists for their coverage of the Westgate Mall rescue operation.

Kenyan journalists film outside the Westgate mall in September. (AFP/Carl de Souza)

Rumor had it that thieves and police had exchanged gunfire during the robbery of a bank at the Westgate Mall. That was the word that first reached some Nairobi newsrooms that Saturday about the gunshots many Kenyans heard coming from the luxurious shopping mall.

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Killed in Kenya

1 journalist killed since 1992

1 journalist murdered

1 murdered with impunity

Attacks on the Press 2012

67% Most attacks occurred in small towns. Corruption was a vulnerable beat.

Country data, analysis »

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Africa

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Mohamed Keita

East Africa Consultant:
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West Africa Consultant:
Peter Nkanga

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