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MEDIA MONITORING DESK: Excellent work on defilement but challenges abound

In the recent past, the media has reported many cases of defilement, rape and sodomy targeting children and women. The predators include employers, religious leaders, guardians/parents, teachers and relatives.

These offences are committed almost on a daily basis yet many of them are not reported simply to protect the names of certain individuals. Through bribes, the evil acts are hidden away especially when the rich are involved. Those in authority take advantage of their status to engage in these crimes, knowing for sure power will protect them. They feel they are above the law.

A few cases are reported to the police and other relevant authorities in the pursuit of justice but other survivors prefer reporting to the men of God with hope of getting healing and divine justice. It’s unfortunate that even persons believed to be holy have turned predators in some cases.

Exposing defilement

In an exposé by Citizen TV on May 26 titled Defiled in Church, investigative journalist Purity Mwambia cast the spotlight on defilement committed by religious leaders. Some of the girls got pregnant as a result.

She interviewed survivors who shared heartbreaking tales in the hands of men of God. “Kuna siku nyingine nilikuwa nimeenda church kuimba, usingizi ikanishika nikaenda sitting [room] kulala. Ndio huyo father akanibeba akanipeleka kwa kitanda akaaza kunifanyia tabia mbaya,” one of the minors said. (One day I went to church to sing. I felt sleepy and I went to sleep at the sitting room. That was when father carried me to bed and started defiling me.)

The minor’s grandmother confessed that every Friday, the children go to church to sing after which they sleep in the church. That is how they are exposed to such dangers. She said the accused clergy blackmail the minors into silence with gifts.

Mwambia was able to confirm allegations that some of those expected to bear the highest responsibility for the rights of children have become the biggest perpetrators. For example, one of the health workers advised a woman to take the child to the ‘bishop’ to be defiled one more time in order to get the evidence, a disgusting suggestion rejected by a lawyer interviewed for the story.

More than 30 cases had been reported of clergy defiling minors in Nairobi, according to the report. This is great investigative work. Congratulations, Mwambia!

Access to information

This exposé brought to the fore a challenge faced by journalists almost on a daily basis – lack of access to information. Mwambia reported that she tried her best to get information from health officers who attended to one of the survivors but all in vain.

The journalist missed a lot of information from the health workers, for example, on the number of defilement cases reported to them and how they deal with the victims.

The information was not shared to the public simply because health workers were unwilling to speak out.

The Monitoring Desk proposes the need to sensitise public officers on the importance of sharing information with the media on matters public interest. The media’s important role of informing society is greatly hampered when journalists find it difficult to access relevant information.

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