The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) has announced a free legal assistance program to safeguard media freedom and improve journalists’ access to specialized and gender-sensitive legal assistance.
The Global Média Defence Fund supports the program dubbed “Enabling effective protection for journalists’ légal safety in Kenya”. This is a UNESCO Multi-Partner Trust Fund established within the framework of the Global Campaign for Media Freedom and under the overall umbrella of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists.
The program will pay specific attention to the risks and threats that both male and female journalists face in their professional activities in Kenya.
KUJ Secretary General, Eric Oduor, noted that the project is being launched with increased cases of journalists being profiled, threatened, and intimidated by politicians for their coverage of the 2022 Kenya General Elections.
“We have planned a series of workshops targeting at least 45 journalists from four Kenyan counties to strengthen their capacity to represent themselves in court,” he disclosed Thursday during the project launch in Nairobi.
He emphasized that the workshops will help enhance the protection of journalists by deepening their understanding of the legal provisions and framework applicable to the exercise of the journalist’s profession, as well as the remedies available to address any threats or violations of their rights.
“Most governments in Africa have realized that what they can do now instead of using police they are now strengthening laws so that journalists do not operate freely,” he said.
UNESCO Regional Advisor for Communication and Information in Africa, Ms Misako Ito, noted that UNESCO endorsed the project to ensure the operationalization of the safety of journalists through legal assistance.
Ms Misako disclosed that UNESCO’s World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development: Global Report 2021/2022, which analyses the state of media freedom, pluralism, independence, and safety of journalists over the past five years, there has been an 85 per cent decline in media freedom.
Further, since 2016, dozens of countries have adopted or amended laws and regulations which threaten freedom of expression and press freedom online.
In Kenya, legal threats to journalists are not limited to malicious prosecution and arrests, strategic lawsuits against journalists, restrictive policies against access to information, and regulatory overreach and interference.
To ensure journalists safety is protected, we shall be announcing a Journalists' legal safety framework. This will be coupled with enhanced capacity building program for journalists in Kenya. https://t.co/AmMYFqveoN #JournalismIsNotACrimeKE pic.twitter.com/qOFsH3e13Y
— KUJ Kenya (@KUJ_Kenya) August 3, 2022
Mr Oduor said the project will offer journalists legal representation and training in Kenya’s legal ecosystem that affects the work of journalists The union will also, we will also carry out research on the legal regime affecting the work of journalists aimed at setting precedents for promoting and protecting freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in Kenya.
The project launch had representation from Article 19 East Africa, Association of Devolution Journalists, Solidarity Center, Association of Freelance Journalists, International Association of Women in Radio and Television IWART- Kenya and media members.