A barrage of tear gas canisters and a deluge from an armoured water cannon directed at journalists in Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga’s convoy highlighted the brutality of security forces on the third day of anti-government protests.
Anti-riot officers battered the journalists as their vehicle was trapped between a barricade erected by police and Mr Odinga’s convoy — which wasn’t spared either — with the Kenyan opposition leader of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition alleging his car was shot at seven times.
Faced with the vicious attacks, the journalists, who were perched on the carrier of the black Toyota Land Cruiser, scampered for safety and, in the process, four were seriously injured.
Six journalists injured
In total, six journalists were injured during Thursday’s protests in different parts of the country, victims of brutality by police and violent protesters. It brought to 22 the total number of journalists injured since the start of the demonstrations on Monday, March 20.
And even after the journalists and the driver of the vehicle had fled, a plainclothes policeman smashed the car’s windscreen, shoved a rifle through the cracks and fired inside several times.
The United States is deeply concerned by recent reports of attacks against journalists. Protecting press freedom and safety is a cornerstone of democracy.— U.S. Ambassador Meg Whitman (@USAmbKenya) March 31, 2023
In the aftermath, bloodied faces of victims of the attack, including local broadcaster NTV’s cameraman Eric Isinta told of the horror. Others injured at the scene in Nairobi were Mr Timon Abuna of Standard Media Group, Mr Mauritius Oduor of Royal Media Services and Mr George Oduor, an independent photojournalist. The journalists were rushed by colleagues to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Tear gas canisters
Mr Isinta said police lobbed three tear gas canisters directly at him with one getting into his clothes and another hitting his face.
“There were many tear gas canisters that were thrown as we were getting near the junction. I could not see where I was going. One tear gas canister hit me on the head and another one on my chest and into my clothes. I got it out before it could burn me but a third one hit my face and I was injured,” Mr Isinta said.
He sustained a serious injury on the right side of the face.
In Kisumu, a Citizen TV cameraman was critically injured while fleeing from rowdy protesters. Mr Dismas Nabiswa, who was covering the riot from a footbridge on the Kisumu-Nairobi highway, was injured after he missed a step and fell, breaking some of his ribs. He was rescued by boda boda (motorcycle taxi) operators who rushed him to the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital where he was treated before being transferred to Avenue Hospital.
Hostile hooligans, police
His phone, camera and a live video transmission gadget were damaged during the melee. Azimio leaders condemned the attack on the press.
“It is very unfortunate that in the whole of these skirmishes, the media is being targeted for attack. The other day and today, several journalists have been injured,” Mr Odinga said shortly after the incident.
In a similar incident on Monday, journalists covering the protests were attacked by hooligans and the police in different areas. Reporters covering the protests said they faced hostility from both the protesters and the police.