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Impunity against journalists: Are we doing enough?

By Dinah Ondari

Journalists have been urged to be vigilant while in the field in the wake of increasing threats and emerging risks related to their work.

Panelists in a session discussing impunity against journalists noted that the environment in which journalists operate today is increasingly becoming riskier, with few solutions to emerging dangers.

The concerns emerged during the first day of the Annual Media Summit 2019 that took place in Nairobi’s Intercontinental Hotel last week attracting local and international participants. The event was organized by the Media Council of Kenya and partners.

“I get very worried when we send journalists to the field these days. It has become necessary that we brief journalists on their security before going to the field,” said Andy Kagwa, a senior editor with the Standard Group.

Photojournalist Thomas Mukoya (Reuters) encouraged journalists to develop a routine of assessing the security environment of an event before setting out for an assignment so that they can take the necessary precautionary measures.

Police Spokesman Charles Owino advised journalists to be tactful in what they do, while upholding the highest level of ethics. “If you are used to extort be ready to face the consequences. I have seen people pay owners of media houses and editors to sack journalists whom they think are not working in their favour,” he said.

Owino advised journalists to establish rapport with police in their areas of work for better assistannce when threats emerge.

Caroline Wambui, managing editor of Kameme TV, said most threats that journalists face in the course of their work emanate from within newsrooms.

“How safe are we inside newsrooms? Young ladies and young men are suffering. Talented journalists are missing opportunities because they won’t do what people want. People are being interviewed in shady places. How many organizations are providing safe havens? People are afraid to talk because they feel no one will help anyway. Outside there we are protected by police, who is protecting us inside the newsroom? It is time we went beyond the colorful anti-sexual harassment policies.”

Kenya Union of Journalists secretary general Eric Oduor warned journalists against getting too cozy with news subjects and sources. “Sometimes we find ourselves in problems because of our cozy relations with news makers,” he said.

Peter Okelo of the Media Council of Uganda said the Kenyan media scene is more progressive and vibrant unlike in Uganda where media freedom is limited: “The biggest challenge we have in Uganda is low professionalism and lack of ethics,” he said.

The two-day summit ended on August 9.

Dinah Ondari is the Manager, Press Freedom and Ethics at the Media Council of Kenya.

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