LET US UPHOLD JOURNALISTS’ RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION


Journalists docked at a media centre while covering an event. Photo | Twitter

By: Antony Achayo and Maxwell Kamau

Worth Noting:

  • Another case was witnessed in Machakos county when a group of journalists who were covering an eviction caused by the locals. The police officers then accosted the journalists who had recorded the incident and demanded that the footage be deleted. When they declined, they were roughed up, arrested, detained in a police car and their mobile phones confiscated. They were driven nearly 30 km away and left by the roadside. They later recorded a statement at Kiritiri police station of trying to silence them despite identifying themselves as journalists.
  • “Police are supposed to facilitate and guarantee journalists’ safety and security as they carry out their important function mandated and protected by the constitution of Kenya under Article 34,” said MS. Kaaria.

Globally, journalists have been facing violence and intimidation for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression. The range of threats they are confronted to include murder, kidnapping, hostage-taking, online harassment, enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention. Journalists and media professionals have faced either physical or moral threats before managing to receive, produce and finally share information to the general public. The individuals who are in power have also been restraining journalist’s freedom of sharing information. When they expose vicious activities like corruption happening in the government, the officials linked with these obscene practices have been plotting dark schemes to silence journalists who are performing their roles. According to UNESCO observatory of killed journalists, between 2006 and 2020, over 1200 journalists have been killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public. In nine out of ten cases the killers go unpunished. This has indeed posted some detrimental effects in the field of journalism. It has created a climate of fear for media professionals, impeding the free circulation of information, opinions and ideas for all citizens. Some of the fresh cases include, abduction of the Daily Nation journalist, Barrack Oduor. Mr. Oduor was on duty covering a story about a university student who had claimed earlier that she was in a relationship with the top most county official within Nyanza region. The daily nation journalist was harassed by some two unknown men before he managed to escape from the moving vehicle.

Another case was witnessed in Machakos county when a group of journalists who were covering an eviction caused by the locals. The police officers then accosted the journalists who had recorded the incident and demanded that the footage be deleted. When they declined, they were roughed up, arrested, detained in a police car and their mobile phones confiscated. They were driven nearly 30 km away and left by the road side. They later recorded a statement at Kiritiri police station of trying to silence them despite identifying themselves as journalists.

“Police are supposed to facilitate and guarantee journalists’ safety and security as they carry out their important function mandated and protected by the constitution of Kenya under Article 34,” said MS. Kaaria.

In this case, women journalists are particularly impacted by threats and attacks, notably those made online. According to UNESCO’S recent discussion paper, the chilling: Global trends in online violence against women journalists, 73 percent of the women journalists surveyed said they have been threatened, intimidated and insulted online in connection with their work. Online violence against women pursues the so-called “chilling effect” which is aimed at discouraging their active participation in public debate. From the survey, this proves that women journalists have been perceived as weak subjects and they are prone to threats of any kind while in the course of performing their duty. By respecting journalists’ rights of freedom of expression, they will in turn help us explore more about what’s happening around the world. But if we undermine their movements and actions, they won’t be in a position of disseminating information properly.

Journalists have got the codes of conduct that govern them while playing their journalistic roles. Some of these codes of conduct include; Accuracy and Fairness. Journalists shall write a fair, accurate and unbiased story on matters of public interest and all sides of the story shall be reported, wherever possible. Independence is another vital code of conduct that govern all professional journalists. Here, journalists shall defend the independence of all journalists from those seeking influence or control over news content. This code gives journalists power to gather and report news without fear or favor, and resist undue influence from any outside forces, including advertising sources, story subjects, powerful individuals and special interest groups.

Misrepresentation is another important code of conduct for practice of journalism. It commands all journalists to identify themselves and not obtain or seek to obtain information or pictures through misrepresentation or subterfuge. Privacy as one of the codes of conduct for practice of journalism states that; Information concerning a person’s home, family, religion, tribe, health, sexuality, personal life and private affairs are covered by the concept of privacy except where these impinge upon the public.

Lastly, Intrusion into grief and shock as a fundamental code of conduct for practicing journalism dictates that, in hospitals, journalists shall identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering a non-public area of hospital or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guetress says that, “I urge member states and the local international community to stand in solidarity with journalists around the world every day and demonstrate the political will needed to investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists and media workers with full force of the law.”

By, Antony Achayo and Maxwell Kamau, Media and communication students at Rongo University.

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