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Stop attacking journalists, police officers ordered

The Kenya Police Service has assured that it will act on all cases reported by journalists over harassment by police officers.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Edward Mbugua said they will open investigations into all such incidents as per the OB numbers filed by journalists assaulted in the line of duty.

Mr Mbugua made the declaration during a visit to his office at Vigilance House by Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) President Churchill Otieno, its Vice President Samuel Maina and Chief Executive, Rosalia Omungo.

“There is no policy for violence against journalists in the police service,” he said. He further indicated that he has directed all Regional Information Commanders to inform officers under their command that violence against journalists would not be tolerated.

A memo issued by Mr Mbugua in January 2020, indicated that journalists, cameramen and photographers had lodged complaints to him complaining of harassment and manhandling by the police during incidents including the riot control at Njoro when Egerton University students blocked the road as well as during the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) demonstrations in Mombasa.

“You are directed to refrain from mistreating the Media fraternity as it is their responsibility to keep the public informed. Pass the information to officers under your command and any officer found to have manhandled any person will be dealt with as provided by the law,” Mr Mbugua said in the advisory to his subordinates.

AGAINST HARASSMENT

The directive follows a complaint by KEG against harassment of media personnel by police officers.

In a letter dated January 17, 2020, Mr Otieno, had enumerated cases of assault on journalists between January 10 and 13, in which four journalists were harassed in separate incidents across the country.

The letter demanded the immediate arrest and arraignment of the police officers involved in these grievous assaults against freedom of the media.

“Both journalists and the police have a duty to serve the public. It is very worrying when police officers turn violent on journalists, causing injury and damaging tools. Editors expect firm and decisive action from the leadership of the police service,” said Mr Otieno, during the visit to Vigilance House.

He noted that KEG stands for excellence and professionalism in journalism, which involves verifying facts that in turn inform stories.

KEG Vice President, Mr Maina reminded journalists on the importance of identifying themselves through the press card and company identification cards.

Acknowledging that there are some rogue officers in the police service, Mr Mbugua encouraged journalists to report promptly any such aggression that put their lives in danger while in the line of duty.

He nonetheless made a reassurance to follow up on all the reported cases to ensure their conclusion, and reminded journalists to make themselves easily identifiable while in the line of duty.