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CPJ Report: Kenya Press Freedom Shrinking Fast


Copy of CPJ report on the state of press freedom in Kenya, at a press conference in Nairobi, July 15, 2015.

Copy of CPJ report on the state of press freedom in Kenya, at a press conference in Nairobi, July 15, 2015.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists has released a report on what it calls the "deteriorating climate for press freedom" in Kenya.

The report, released Wednesday, paints a bleak picture of Kenya’s media, long considered the most robust in East Africa. It documents cases of journalists being beaten, arrested and intimidated for their work, especially outside the capital, Nairobi.

CPJ’s Tom Rhodes says that since Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta came to power two years ago, journalism has become a more dangerous profession.

“I’ve counted since the beginning of this year, and documented 19 cases from January to May 2015 of attacks, threats, imprisonments and harassments of the Kenyan press, which basically works out to be one case per week," he said. "And in all four years that I’ve been here in Kenya, I’ve never seen such high levels before.”

What makes this trend more worrisome, he says, is that this intimidation takes place with almost complete impunity.

“What has happened in all of these cases? To date, nothing," he added. "This is, I think, one of the reasons why we’re seeing this increase in cases. It’s simply because it can happen. It’s allowed to happen.”

Rhodes says most of the cases documented this year have involved Kenyan officials or police and tend to revolve around topics such as land disputes, corruption, security and the International Criminal Court. The result, he says, is that certain topics have become “no-go” areas for the Kenyan press.

While government officials say journalists arn’t in any danger, Kenya's parliament recently passed a series of laws impacting press freedom, many of which have been challenged and are tied up in court. These include a law limiting the media’s right to report on security issues and another that forbids journalists from handling classified information.

The report also indicates official harassment isn't restricted to conventional media. CPJ researchers also report a government crackdown on social media and the arrests of numerous bloggers for writing about apparently sensitive subjects or for posting similar items on Facebook.

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