The IPI global network condemns attacks on journalists in Kenya covering ongoing public protests against tax-rise legislation. Between June 18 and June 25, amid the protests and an ensuing police crackdown, reporters have faced several incidents of physical assault, arrest and detention, and the damaging of equipment by both the security forces and the protestors. More than 22 protestors were reportedly killed on June 25 as a direct result of police firing live ammunition at protestors. 

IPI urgently calls on the Kenyan authorities to refrain from all forms of pressure and attacks on the press. Authorities must investigate any incidents of violence, prioritize journalists’ safety, and guarantee unrestricted access to information including by keeping the internet on.

“IPI is alarmed by the documented attacks on press freedom during the ongoing public protests in Kenya, a trend which was similarly noted during protests in the country in March 2023”, said IPI Advocacy and Partnerships Lead Nompilo Simanje. “The police continue to attack journalists with impunity under the guise of dispersing protestors and it is high time the perpetrators were held accountable. Rather than target the press, the police should instead guarantee the safety of journalists and allow them to carry out their role of collecting and sharing information, which is itself critical for public order and security.”

IPI stands in solidarity with the Kenya Media Sector Working Group in calling for accountability and in its resolution to take legal action against the police.

Week of violence

The attacks on the press have occurred amid a violent police crackdown on the protests. Reports indicated that some protestors were killed, and over two hundred others were reported injured as a direct result of police crackdown on the protest at the beginning of the protests last week. Several incidents of abductions, disappearances, and arrests have also been noted.

IPI has recorded at least a dozen cases of journalists attacked during the protests. Associated Press (AP) journalists Joe Muhia and Iddi Ali Juma were assaulted by the police and detained before being released. Journalist Justus Mwangi Macharia of Standard Group was also arrested and assaulted by the police. Sammy Kimatu and Taifa Leo of the Nation Media Group were reported to have been thrown out of a moving police vehicle. Meanwhile, columnist Gabriel Oguda was reportedly abducted and later found in detention in Kajiado Police Station.  

Collins Olunga, a photojournalist for Agence France-Presse (AFP), was assaulted and injured by the police. IPI also learned that KBC videographer John Omido was sprayed with water, and his equipment was damaged by the anti-riot police force.

In addition to the police assault on the press, a YouTube video documented an attack on Ben Kirui of Citizen TV from protestors. Kirui reportedly sustained injuries as a result.

“We are closely following the situation of the protests over the Finance Bill. We are saddened by the attacks on journalists covering the protests and call on the authorities to respect press freedom”, William Oloo, secretary general of the Congress of African Journalists, told IPI. “The attacks should stop and action should be taken against those who have attacked and injured journalists.”

Internet shutdown and threats to close media

Meanwhile, despite assurances from the Kenya Communications Authority on June 24 that internet access would remain open, internet disruptions have also been reported. Internet access in the country was temporarily disrupted, depriving millions of people of access to real-time information about the protests. 

The authorities have also threatened to shut down broadcaster KTN over its live coverage of the protests. 

IPI reiterates call to authorities

The recent spate of attacks on the press recalls similar incidents recorded by IPI  in March last year during public anti-government protests. IPI reiterates its calls on authorities to ensure that journalists can freely and safely cover public protests.