Joel Eshikumo has been threatened repeatedly over photographs he took in court. (Joel Eshikumo)
Joel Eshikumo has been threatened repeatedly over photographs he took in court. (Joel Eshikumo)

Journalist in western Kenya faces death threats

New York, May 10, 2012Kenyan authorities must immediately investigate recent death threats against a Kenyan journalist, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Local businessman Armstrong Pino allegedly threatened Joel Eshikumo, a reporter for the Weekly Citizen and a political columnist for the weekly Western Times, in public on Saturday over photographs the journalist had taken of him in court on April 27, local journalists told CPJ. Eshikumo told CPJ that unidentified callers had threatened him every night since Saturday, saying they would burn his house down and telling him to be prepared to die over the pictures he had taken of Pino in court.

The journalist, who is based in Mumias, a town in western Kenya, said that Pino had complained to the court magistrate after he was photographed, but the judge said Eshikumo was a journalist and was allowed to take pictures. CPJ’s attempts to reach Pino for comment were unsuccessful as the police had confiscated his phone for evidence, according to George Seda, the police chief in Mumias.

On Monday, Eshikumo filed a statement with the police, news reports said. Seda told CPJ they were investigating the case: “People cannot live in fear like this, so we are trying our level best to track these calls.”

“Journalists are routinely threatened in western Kenya simply for doing their job, and some of these threats have been followed by direct attacks,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “Authorities must do their utmost to investigate the threats against Joel Eshikumo and allow him to work without fear of reprisal.”

In April, a businessman in the western town of Kitale threatened two journalists, Osinde Obare of The Standard and Radio Citizen reporter David Musindi, for their report on fake maize seeds being sold in his supermarket, local journalists told CPJ.