Kenyan police assault journalists investigating corruption

April 20, 2015 4:06 PM ET

Nairobi, April, 20, 2015--Two journalists were beaten by officers from Kenya's paramilitary police wing, the General Service Unit (GSU), at a cattle ranch in southeastern Kenya on April 18, according to news reports. Nehemiah Okwembah, from the privately owned daily Nation, and Reuben Ogachi, a cameraman for the privately owned station Citizen TV, were covering a story in Bombi, a village on the outskirts of the Agricultural Development Cooperation Galana and Kulalu ranch, 576km (358 miles) east of the capital, Nairobi.

Citizen TV cameraman Reuben Ogachi is taken to hospital after being attacked. (Jakob Elkana)

Using clubs and metal rods, about 15 GSU officers beat Okwembah and Ogachi before the officers' superior ordered them to stop, Okwembah told CPJ. Also injured were Tana River County Governor Hussein Dado's political adviser Abaroba Barisa, communication official Ali Wario, and a driver, news reports said. The journalists are receiving treatment at Aga Khan Hospital in the coastal city of Mombasa, Okwembah said. He told CPJ he had injuries on his legs, back, shoulders, and hands, and that Ogachi's right leg was broken. The Nation reporter will be discharged on Wednesday, but Ogachi will remain at the hospital for further treatment, he added.

"There is no justification for this attack on Nehemiah Okwembah and Reuben Ogachi, who were simply doing their jobs," said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. "Kenyan police must not be allowed to attack journalists with impunity. We call on authorities to thoroughly investigate the assault and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law."

Okwembah and Ogachi had gone to the state-run ranch after interviewing residents who claimed that on April 17 GSU officers had allegedly impounded about 200 cattle for trespassing on the million-acre ranch. The officers were allegedly demanding 500 Kenyan shillings (US$5.30) per head of cattle to return them, Okwembah said. The journalists were attacked as soon as they arrived at the ranch, he added. The officers immediately started beating the journalists, destroying their video cameras in the process, according to news reports.

Inspector General Joseph Boinett said on April 18 that police are investigating the incident, news reports said.

Kenyan journalists have been repeatedly targeted for reporting on allegations of police malpractice, according to CPJ research. In November last year, police in Kisumu, western Kenya, threatened Justus Ochieng, a journalist at the privately owned daily The Star with "dire consequences" for a story that alleged criminal activity by police officers in the region, Ochieng told CPJ.

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