Human rights groups say Kenya must end media crackdown

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Kenyan government must halt its crackdown on media freedom and allow Jerome Starkey to return to the country, said nine human rights organisations on Wednesday, two months after the British journalist was detained and deported. The organisations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and PEN International, sent a letter to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Internal Affairs and Coordination of National Government Joseph Nkaissery, and other senior government officials, calling for Jerome Starkey to be allowed to return to Kenya to resume his work, and that the government publicly reaffirm its oft-expressed commitment to the right to freedom of expression and media freedom. “It’s a travesty that Jerome Starkey, a well-respected international journalist was detained and deported under questionable circumstances and is now no longer able to carry out his work in Kenya. But this is just one of many cases of media harassment and intimidation of journalists carried out by the Kenyan authorities,” said Justus Nyang’aya, Amnesty International Kenya’s Country Director. “Journalists must be allowed to investigate and report on important issues without fearing for their safety. In the run-up to elections and beyond, Kenyan authorities must publicly declare their commitment to freedom of the press and show that they mean it, by investigating all allegations of attacks on journalists and ensuring that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice in fair trials.” The statement also called for thorough, impartial and transparent investigations into all attacks against journalists in Kenya, including the murder in 2015 of John Kituyi, the editor of a regional newspaper. The letter was copied to the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Inspector General of Police, the Chairman of the Commission on Administration of Justice, and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. Jerome Starkey, The Times’ Africa Correspondent, who had been living and working in Kenya for five years, was detained at the airport in Nairobi and deported back to the UK on December 8, 2016 without any explanation at the time. After several requests for an explanation from The Times, a spokesperson for the Kenyan High Commission informed the newspaper in a letter dated January 10 that Jerome was expelled because his work permit application had been rejected. However, he had previously been assured by the Immigration Department that no decision had been made. Then, more than six weeks after he was deported, a letter from the Immigration Department postmarked January 23 informed him that he had been refused an entry permit and a work permit. The human rights organisations further listed several cases of Kenyan journalists and activists who have faced harassment and interference in their work over the past year.

– By ANA