Hivos and the Kenya Media Programme (KMP), working with KMP partner the Media Council of Kenya, have launched Kenya’s first ever survey on the working conditions facing Kenyan journalists. The report titled ‘Safety and protection of Kenyan journalists: Is it common sense or common cents?’, was launched to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day, marked on 3 May.
The report documents case studies of journalists who have been attacked and harassed by state and non-state factors. The report’s findings were based on a survey that covered all of the country’s 47 counties with over 300 journalists being interviewed. It states that over 90 per cent of the journalists have been threatened at least once in their career, more than half (53.9 percent) have been threatened at least twice and almost 20 per cent more than five times.
Politically-motivated threats were said to be most frequently faced by journalists, followed by threats sparked by stories that touched on corruption and land.
Poor working conditions, poor remuneration, compromised or inexperienced editors and lack of editorial support are some of the other challenges facing journalists highlighted in the report. Kenyan journalists indicated that the government and commercial interests of the local media houses form the greatest threat to media freedom in the country.
“The report gives us a better perspective of the prevailing situation as far as safety and protection of journalists is concerned. It also gives an indication of what needs to be done to identify the existing safety gaps for journalists. It helps shape the narrative of storytelling in a hostile environment. And it helps media houses to invest in journalists and not be overly worried by the “bottom-line”, explains KMP Hivos programme officer Anthony Wafula.
The report is the product of the Media Working Group on the Safety and Protection of Journalists of which KMP is a member. Kenya’s media sector is seen as the most developed and is often described as the most liberal in the East Africa, but the media working group says that it was appalled by the apparent lack of concern over journalists’ safety and protection in Kenya, especially amongst the media houses they serve. The group calls on media houses to provide the necessary safeguards to protect journalists covering sensitive stories and those working in hostile environments.