OCTOBER 3, 2005
Posted: December 8, 2005

Anderson Ojwang’, The East African Standard
Baraka Karama, Kenya Television Network (KTN)

Ojwang’, a correspondent for the independent daily The East African Standard, was beaten by youths bearing whips and sticks while trying to cover a government-organized meeting in the western town of Kakamega. The attack occurred outside a hotel where Vice President Moody Awori and several government ministers were meeting with local officials to encourage support for a controversial draft constitution backed by President Mwai Kibaki.

The attack occurred after Minister of Local Government Musikari Kombo asked the press to leave the hotel and accused journalists of giving negative coverage to those in favor of the draft, according to reports on KTN and in The East African Standard. Kombo later condemned the assault on Ojwang’, according to the independent daily Nation.

The youths also forced Karama, a cameraman for the private Kenya Television Network (KTN), to leave the hotel, threatening to beat him as well, according to local news reports. In a KTN report the following day, one reporter said that the harassment of journalists in Kakamega had “created fear among journalists over their safety.”

The draft constitution split the country and Kibaki’s own government into two sides: “banana” for supporters of the draft and “orange” for opponents. A bitter campaign in the run-up to a November 21 referendum on the draft led to violent clashes between supporters and dozens of arrests, according to news reports.

The incidents in Kakamega occurred one week after some independent journalists were barred from attending “orange” rallies opposing the draft constitution in the nearby city of Kisumu. Opponents of the draft, including opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta, accused journalists from the Nation group of “misreporting and misrepresenting facts” in coverage of their rallies.