Hivos International

Ending impunity against journalists in East Africa

Defending the rights of journalists, enabling freedom of the press and protecting freedom of expression are crucial building blocks of democracy. However, press freedom is increasingly under siege around the world, with ever more journalists facing threats of violence or imprisonment for carrying out their duties.

In Kenya, the situation is not any different. The recently concluded elections saw a rise in incidences of violence against journalists. Many were assaulted, detained and harassed while covering post-election violence. Although International bodies such as the United Nations have been keen on enacting resolutions such as the UN Plan of Action on Safety and Security, far much more needs to be done to ensure the safety and security of journalists.

These alarming trends were foremost on the agenda at the Eastern Africa Conference on National Mechanisms for Safety of Journalists on 13 and 14 November in Nairobi. Organised by the Kenya Media Sector Working Group with financial support from Hivos East Africa, Article 19 East Africa, UNESCO, and government of Sweden amongst others, the event was held on the International Day of Ending Impunity against Journalists. It brought together 120 delegates from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda and other countries.

The delegates – from ministries, media associations, civil society, media regulatory bodies and media development partners - shared best practices on national, regional and international mechanisms for ensuring the safety of journalists and anchoring such mechanisms in Eastern Africa.

Officiated by the Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communications and Technology, Joe Mucheru, the event allowed regional actors to engage on safety of journalists and mobilise Eastern Africa media development partners to provide the necessary support for implementing recommendations taken in international, regional and national fora.

Another topic of discussion was building the capacity of Safety of Journalists focal persons from the relevant government institutions and ministries, in accordance with the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists approved by the UN General Assembly in 2012.

The event resulted in agreements on regional parameters to establish national mechanisms for the safety of journalists based on country-specific contexts.

About Hivos East Africa

Hivos believes promoting the safety and security of journalists, bloggers and artists ensures the public’s right to information and bolsters democracy and rule of law.

Our approach in stimulating alternative and independent media is to foster a diverse and thriving media landscape. We also seek to improve the quality of media and promote their independence.

Stimulating high-quality journalism and independent news reporting by media organisations is a key focal area of our support to media. Through this, we aim to broaden people’s access to trustworthy sources of information and create more opportunities for citizens to inform themselves and raise their voices.

Note: Parts of this article were originally published by the Media Council of Kenya