The Media Council of Kenya has condemned the harassment and arrest of three journalists in Embu County who were covering demonstrations in Makima, Mbeere South.
Media Council of Kenya Chairman Maina Muiruri says cases of journalists being arrested and harassed by police while in their line of duty have become a worrying trend that is impending execution of their core mandate which is disseminating information.
The latest case in Embu saw police officers arrest journalists who were covering a demonstration by residents of Makima area protesting against the demarcation of land said to be owned by the Tana and Athi River Development Authority (TARDA).
The three Solomon Mwaniki, Peter Mungai and Brian Musyoka of Nation Media Group Ltd., Royal Media Services Ltd. and County FM, respectively, were confronted by police in anti-riot gear who demanded that they erase the video footage they had taken of the protest.
The journalists declined and were subsequently arrested but later released with no charges proffered against them.
Maina says it is unfortunate that the police are targeting journalists and media practitioners and preventing them from carrying out their duty to inform the public at large, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The police are supposed to facilitate the work of journalists and guarantee their safety and security as they carry out this important function mandated and protected by the Constitution of Kenya under Article 34. The fact that they are increasingly turning against the media does not augur well for public interest and the transparency they expect.” He said.
The Media Council has urged the police to respect the rights of journalists as protected in law and to defend and protect lawful actions by the media.
“MCK is taking this matter seriously, and has called on the Regional Police Commander to investigate this incident and ensure that the culpable officers face the full force of the law.” Maina said.