September 7, 2018

Kenyan reporter narrowly escapes murder attempt

Daily Nation's front page headline on September 7th 2018. © Daily Nation
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for a thorough and impartial investigation into the attempted murder of a reporter with Nation Media Group (NMG), Kenya’s biggest press group, while he was investigating an alleged adulterous relationship between the governor of the westerncounty of Migori and a university student.

The reporter, Barrack Oduor, had a close brush with death in Migori on 3 September when he met with Governor Okoth Obado’s alleged girlfriend, Sharon Otieno, to interview her and they arranged to meet jointly with the governor’s personal assistant, Michael Oyamo, at a hotel in the town of Rongo.


After Oyamo arrived at the hotel, he invited Oduor and Otieno to get into a car with him in order to discuss the sensitive subject at a different location. But just minutes after they left together, the car pulled up, Oyamo got out and two men got in. 


The two men began to hit Oduor but he managed to throw himself from the car while it was on the move and, although injured, to run away. Otieno was not so fortunate. Her body was found in a nearby forest two days later.


“It is essential that the Kenyan authorities conduct a thorough investigation in order to identify the instigators of this trap that led to the murder of a journalist’s source,”said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “If the reporter had not miraculously escaped, he would doubtlessly have suffered the same fate as the young woman with him in the car. Was the governor’s assistant acting on his own initiative or was he ordered to hush up the affair? The investigation must answer this question.”


The Kenyan government hailed Oduor’s “courage” and announced that Oyamo, the governor’s personal assistant, was arrested at Nairobi airport. The governor himself has not been questioned by the police. His press spokesperson has denied that he was involved and said the police should be allowed to do their investigation, 


The Kenyan Union of Journalists issued a statement saying: “Intimidation and attacks will not stop journalists from telling stories of infidelity and wanton corruption” in the western region.


The most recent murder of a journalist in Kenya was in 2016, when freelance photojournalist Dennis Otieno was shot dead in his home in the western city of Kitale by unidentified gunmen, who took his camera.

In recent years, Kenyan journalists have often been the targets of physical violence by the security forces or public threats and intimidation by politicians. Several journalists were attacked last month alone. Daily Nation reporter Ndung’u Gachane was manhandled by police and held for several hours when he tried to cover a conflict between local officials and a water and sanitation company in Murang’a on 30 August. As RSF reported at the time, an NTV cameraman and a Daily Nation photographer were detained and roughed up on 16 August when filming and photographing the construction of a hotel on a beach in Mombasa.


Kenya is ranked 96th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index