BY The COAST TEAM
At least 30 Kenyan journalists have received threats against their lives and intimidation this year while in line of duties within the Coast region.
Kenya Correspondents Association national chairman William Janak says the majority of journalists in the region have raised concerns about their personal safety and security while reporting devolution issues particularly on county governance and health including COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a media workshop in Mombasa recently, Mr Janak confirmed that cases of threats and intimidation against journalists reporting devolution were increasing in Kenya due to laxity from county governments in ensuring there was adequate access to information and freedom of expression in counties.
The workshop organized by KCA and attended by more than 20 journalists from Mombasa, Kilifi and Tana River counties proposed urgent interventions including regular engagements between journalists and county governments and leaders in order to enhance freedom of expression and safety of journalists in the country.
A number of journalists who confirmed having fallen victims of threats and intimidation blamed unfriendly policies as a major cause and demanded a review on how counties deal with the media practitioners.
However, Mr Janak said KCA through support from UNESCO was facilitating training for journalists as well as promoting engagement between media and county governments and leaders including those from civil society to address such underlying issues.
“KCA through its partners is currently implementing a 12 months training program which aims to train 200 journalists across the country on matters of safety and freedom of expression as well as encouraging mutual engagements between them and leaders from both county governments and the civil society” he added.
A number of journalists accused county governments’ leaders with Mombasa and Kilifi counties in particular for being in the forefront in curtailing their rights to access to information and freedom of expression.
Lack of proper protocol, bureaucracy and unprofessionalism amongst County employees posed a great challenge to journalists hence creating conflict between journalists and county leaders.
KCA national treasurer Barnard Kawalla added that the Mombasa workshop which was 3rd after Kisumu and Bungoma came at a better time when journalists were preparing for the forthcoming referendum and 2022 general elections.
Other counties targeted for the next training include Kitui, Meru, Nakuru and Kitale alongside others.
Mulle Musau , the ELOG executive Officer who was in attendance at the Mombasa workshop called on County government leaders to open up to the media scrutiny by ensuring journalists have access to information on issues of public interest.
Musau said freedom of expression and media are two important fundamental rights that must be respected both by national and county governments in order to ensure in particular, free and fair elections as well as good governance in the country.
The Mombasa workshop also assessed the current status of journalists on COVID-19 Pandemic with 70 Journalists across the country confirmed to have been infected with the virus while more than 500 others lost their jobs due to adverse effects of the pandemic.
KCA has now initiated engagement with the government to bail out Journalists as the situation has become seriously threatening both the safety of health reporting journalists and media in general.