Police officers patrol a street during clashes with opposition supporters in Nairobi, Kenya on March 27, 2023. CPJ called on Kenyan authorities to ensure journalists can cover the mass anti-government protests safely after reports of media workers being harassed, attacked, and arrested. (AFP/Luis Tato)

CPJ calls for Kenyan authorities to ensure journalists can cover protests safely

Nairobi, March 31, 2023 – In response to journalists being harassed, attacked, and arrested while covering mass anti-government protests in Kenya since March 20, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement calling for authorities to take action to protect members of the press: 

“Journalists covering the ongoing protests in Kenya are carrying out a crucial public service, and authorities must support reporters instead of threatening or detaining them,” said Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative. “Kenya’s regional reputation as a hub for the free press is at risk unless this aggression against the media is stopped, and attacks on journalists are credibly investigated and prosecuted.”

Since March 20, protests against the 2022 election of President William Ruto and declining economic conditions have been held by the opposition Azimio la Umoja political coalition twice a week, during which police and members of the public have harassed or assaulted members of the media and police briefly arrested two journalists, according to multiple news reports and statements from local media rights organizations

Opposition leader Raila Odinga called for a boycott of a local newspaper, which he accused of “benefiting from the blood and tears of Kenyans,” on March 21, a move he rescinded two days later.

The Communications Authority, the country’s broadcast regulator, also threatened to revoke six TV stations’ broadcast licenses; on March 24, the Kenyan High Court suspended the regulator’s ability to revoke the licenses pending a hearing of a civil society application alleging that the authority acted illegally and unconstitutionally, according to news reports and court documents reviewed by CPJ. The authority said it would comply with the ruling.