Media houses have been asked to make security arrangements for journalists as the country gears towards the 2022 General Election.
This follows a rise in attacks targeting journalists and human rights defenders across the country raising concerns amongst various stakeholders.
According to Article 19 East Africa Chapter, 51 journalists among them nine females were attacked between May 2020 and April 2021.
Robert Wanjala, a programme officer in charge of Media and Protection at Article 19 said media houses and journalists must come up with security plans to enhance their safety while on duty.
The role of the media during the electioneering period, he said, was very critical adding that by putting in place security arrangements, media houses shall ensure that their duty to inform the public is not interfered with.
“More often than not journalists set out to cover events such as rallies and protests without clear security plans. They end up being attacked,” Wanjala noted.
He challenged journalists to assess and understand their environs and news sources as a way of reducing chances of being attacked while on duty.
“Personal safety, both physical and emotional, should be paramount to every journalist dealing with issues that touch on human interest,” he said.
Speaking during a training for journalists on gender sensitive reporting held in Kisumu over the weekend, Wanjala asked journalists to remain impartial and write balanced stories to shake off threats.
“Reporting on gender issues like sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and human rights violations puts the journalist’s security at risk as the perpetrators are always looking out to ensure they don’t speak,” he said.
Speaking during the same occasion, Kenya Female Advisory Organisation (KEFEADO) Executive Director Easter Okech said security of journalists and human rights defenders in the country has not received the attention it deserves.
Lack of adequate safe spaces for them whenever they receive threats, she said continues to expose them to danger.
“When HRDS and journalists are attacked, they are forced to go back to the very risky situations since we lack adequate safe spaces for them,” she said.
She urged media houses and organisations dealing with human rights to establish safe houses especially in the Nyanza region to keep HRDs and journalists safe when their work and life is threatened.
“We should engage the state and have a continuous conversation on gender based violence mitigation and psychosocial support for journalists and HRDs,” she added.
David Sichangi, a DCI officer at Kisumu Central, asked journalists to work in groups to reduce the risk of being attacked.
Sichangi further asked them to liaise with police officers whenever they feel threatened while on duty to ensure that the matters are investigated and action taken against the offenders.
“Most journalists who are working on human rights stories abandon them whenever they receive threats. You should go further and report to the police so that we find a way to keep you safe,” he advised.
The National Police Service (NPS), he added, has established child protection and gender desks at all police stations across the country to support survivors of gender based violence.