Kenya: Rights bodies demand end to media crackdown in Kenya, return of UK journalist

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - The Kenyan government must halt its crackdown on media freedom and allow Jerome Starkey to return to the country, nine human rights organizations said on Wednesday.

Starkey was arrested two months ago, upon which the rights bodies condemned the act and called for his release, but the Briton was instead detained and deported.

The nine organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and PEN International, have sent a letter to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Internal Affairs and Coordination of National Government, Joseph Nkaissery, calling for Jerome Starkey to be allowed to return to Kenya to resume his work,

The letter, copied to other senior government officials, asked the government to publicly reaffirm its often expressed commitment to the right to freedom of expression and media freedom.

“It’s a travesty that Jerome Starkey, a well respected international journalist was detained and deported under questionable circumstances and is now no longer able to carry out his work in Kenya," said Justus Nyang’aya, Amnesty International Kenya’s Country Director.

''But this is just one of many cases of media harassment and intimidation of journalists carried out by Kenyan authorities,” he added

The rights body said journalists must be allowed to investigate and report on important issues without fearing for their safety.

"In the run-up to elections and beyond, Kenyan authorities must publicly declare their commitment to freedom of the press and show that they mean it, by investigating all allegations of attacks on journalists and ensuring that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice in fair trials.”

The statement also calls for thorough, impartial and transparent investigations into all attacks against journalists in Kenya, including the murder in 2015 of John Kituyi, the editor of a regional newspaper.

The letter was copied to the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Inspector General of Police, the Chairman of the Commission on Administration of Justice, and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

Jerome Starkey, The Times’ Africa Correspondent, who had been living and working in Kenya for five years, was detained at the airport in Nairobi and deported back to the UK on 8 December 2016 without any explanation at the time.

After several requests for an explanation from The Times, a spokesman for the Kenyan High Commission informed the newspaper in a letter dated 10 January that Jerome was expelled because his work permit application had been rejected.

The statement lists several cases of Kenyan journalists and activists who have faced harassment and interference in their work over the past year. Most notably:
Duncan Wanga, a K24 television journalist was harassed and attacked by police, who destroyed his camera while he was covering a demonstration in Eldoret town in September 2016 and Denis Galava, then Managing Editor of the Daily Nation’s Weekend Edition,who was sacked over an editorial he wrote on New Year’s Day 2016 that was critical of the government, among others.

Organizations signed up to the letter include Amnesty International Kenya, ARTICLE 19, Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), PEN International, Reporters Sans Frontières.
-0- PANA DJ/VAO 8Feb2017

08 february 2017 14:17:10

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