UNESCO meeting analyses state of journalists’ safety and issue of impunity in Kenya

UNESCO, in partnership with African Media Initiative (AMI), organized a one-day media stakeholders meeting on 22 May 2015 at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, Kenya. The event aimed to shed light on the issues surrounding safety and protection of journalists in Kenya.

The meeting gathered 25 participants from Kenyan media associations, the Ministry of Information and Communications, Ford Foundation, and Kenyan National Commission for UNESCO.

Participants discussed national state of journalists’ safety in Kenya and deliberated on the issue of impunity on the basis of the UNESCO Journalists’ Safety Indicators as endorsed by the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. They also reflected on modalities for the implementation of UNESCO’s ongoing study conducted by the African Media Initiative to analyse the national state of journalists’ safety and issue of impunity in Kenya.  

During the meeting Ms Reeta Pöyhtäri, UNESCO’s Expert for Journalists’ Safety Indicators, gave a presentation on the UN Plan of Action and reiterated the specific objectives to be achieved during the aforementioned study in Kenya, which is expected to assess the safety and protection of journalists, to create awareness about these issues, and to provide a knowledge-based platform for future initiatives to address the threats to the media industry in Kenya.

Ms Pöyhtäri further reminded that freedom of expression is a fundamental element of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and therefore it underpins other democratic freedoms such as the right to form political parties, the right to share political ideas, the right to scrutinise the actions of public officials.

Dr George Nyabuga, the lead researcher, briefed participants on the study’s proposed methodology based on UNESCOs Journalists’ Safety Indicators and also presented a framework that will be used to identify the context of safety and the responsibility of diverse actors in Kenya. The framework comprises a working tool that will focus explicitly on journalists’ safety. This tool will allow for assessment of the problem, of the systems in place and the actions of various actors and institutions concerned in addressing the issue of journalists’ safety in the country.

According to Mr Wangethi Mwangi, Senior Advisor, African Media Initiative, “the meeting provided a better understanding of UNESCO's Journalists’ Safety Indicators, and helped clarify the scope of the proposed research, its limitations and, also, opportunities for in depth investigations in some areas”.

 “This was an extremely important exercise considering the deteriorating situation of journalists’ safety in Kenya. The data and information that will be collected during the period of this research will help create sound interventions,” said Patrick Mutahi, Senior Programme Officer, Article 19 - Eastern Africa.

Ms Hellen Mudora Obanda, Executive Director, Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), reiterated that “while assessing journalists’ safety in Kenya, the gender dimensions of intimidations, threats and violence against women journalists must be addressed in this research. The security of women journalists remains paramount.”

This activity falls within the efforts of UNESCO to “promote an enabling environment for freedom of expression, press freedom and journalistic safety in Kenya”. The study is funded by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Programme on Development of Communication (IPDC), which is a multilateral forum in the UN system that not only provides support for media projects but also seeks an accord to secure a healthy environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media in developing countries.