Nairobi, September 5, 2013–A TV journalist has received death threats twice this week following his coverage of wrongdoing at a hospital in the western Kenyan town of Bungoma, according to the journalist and news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to immediately investigate the threats and ensure the reporter’s safety.
Robert Wanyoni, reporter for the Kenya Television Network (KTN), obtained footage of a pregnant woman giving birth on the floor of the Bungoma District Hospital, the journalist told CPJ. The footage was taken on August 9 by another pregnant woman, he said. The video, which aired on KTN on September 3, shows the woman giving birth on the floor, followed by nurses scolding her and even slapping her.
“She delivered on the floor, a dirty floor and even had to walk, carrying her baby to another ward,” Wanyonyi told CPJ.
The same day the story aired, Wanyoni said he received an anonymous call warning him to vacate the town or “we will send you to the grave,” he told CPJ. At 5 a.m. the next morning, he said he received a similar threat. He has filed a police report about the threats.
Bungoma County Criminal Investigations Department Officer Peter Madeya told CPJ that he is investigating Wanyonyi’s case and is attempting to track the anonymous caller through local cell phone networks.
Wanyonyi told CPJ that he requested comment for the story from the hospital’s superintendent, Dr. Mulianga Egesa, who denied the allegations. He told CPJ that since the report aired, he has received at least 25 messages from citizens complaining of negligence at the hospital.
“Critical journalists such as Robert Wanyoni serve an important function by exposing gaps in the practice of medicine and in other public services,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “Authorities must go beyond rhetoric and ensure that Wanyoni is safe, as well as holding those responsible for the threats to account.”
Bungoma County Governor Kenneth Lusaka and County Cabinet Secretary for Health Grace Khayota visited the facility today and suspended four of the nurses for alleged mishandling of the patient, according to local journalists. In a press briefing at the hospital today, Egesa accused Wanyonyi of being “fond of reporting negative things” and said he would “deal with him,” Wanyonyi and local journalists attending the event told CPJ.
The hospital has since banned the use of cell phones within the wards, including in the maternity ward, according to news reports.
The story has elicited shock among the Kenyan public, especially on Twitter. The hashtag #theSickHospital is trending on Twitter.
In 2011, Wanyonyi briefly went into hiding after receiving repeated death threats in connection with his coverage of coffee theft at a factory in Bungoma County.
- For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Kenya page.