Covering Nairobi’s Police Executions, Media Freedom and Internet Access

Expressions Today, “East Africa’s Independent Media Review”, in its weekly “The Bulletin” feature,  takes a look at last week’s coverage of public extra-judicial executions by the police on Langata Road in Nairobi:

And finally, the unnamed citizen who pictured Flying Squad officers executing suspected thugs who had surrendered in full view of members of the public has done citizen journalism proud. When Nation got hold of the shocking pictures, the paper ran them on the Front Page and did a strong-worded editorial about the utter evil of extra-judicial killings.

It was a story that shook the country. At least Internal Security Minister George Saitoti said the concerned officers had been interdicted and will be prosecuted. But at the press conference, why didn’t reporters press Saitoti about the names? Doesn’t the public have the right to know their names, now that they have been placed under investigation (by the same Police Service, by the way)?

(Okay. Many Kenyans, terribly frustrated by violent crime, think suspects should be executed on sight. No. That is not the rule of law. Instead, the Kenya Police Service should have thoroughly professional officers who are well equipped and motivated and who can win public trust and collaboration to curb crime.)

Without those pictures, we would most likely never have known the truth about what had happened on Lang’ata Road. Except for Nation, all other media houses basically reported what the police said about the incident. And it was plain lies.

Here’s what The Star carried: “The three were part of a gang of six and they were killed in a fierce shoot-out with police, according to Lang’ata police chief Augustine Kimantiria. There was no fierce shoot-out.

Thumbs up to citizen journalism!

“Cry Me an Onion” looks at the state of press freedom and the Kenyan newspapers –not as free as some say he concludes.

Concerning three year prison term for Somaliland journalist on charges of libeling the Somaliland Chief of Police and head of Somaliland Electric Agency:

“This sentence has all the hallmarks of summary and punitive justice,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The court should have first established whether or not anyone was defamed and, if they were, a more measured and just penalty should have been imposed. Imprisonment is clearly disproportionate for defamation. We urge the courts to reverse this decision on appeal.”

The East African reports on a new study on internet access in the region:

According to a study conducted by TNS Research International in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu from September to November 2010, out of a population of 40 million, about four million (10 per cent) have access to the Internet.

The study, titled “Digital Life” and conducted to establish people’s online behaviour and activities, found that in Uganda, out of a population of 33 million, about 3.3 million (10 percent) have a access to the Internet while Tanzania comes last — out of a population of 42 million, only 672,000 people (1.6 per cent) have had an online experience.

The study found that based on an adult sample in each of the covered EAC towns, an average of 45 per cent of the urban population have used the Internet, with Kampala having the highest number at 53 per cent; Arusha and Nairobi at 49 per cent; Mombasa at 42 per cent while Dar es Salaam has the least number of people using the Internet at 31 per cent.

The TNS study revealed that in Kenya, mobile devices and Internet cafes are the primary points of access.

The results of the study show that 60 per cent of Kenyans online use mobile phones as compared with those who use PCs at home (29 per cent); PCs at work (33 per cent); and cyber cafes (41 per cent), thereby indicating high potential for growth in the mobile Internet business in Kenya.

The Government of Kenya has announced, according to Business Daily, a revised lending program to support “digital centres” to increase internet access (referencing higher starting figures than what the TNS study found):

The government has released Sh320 million for set up of digital centres in Kenya, a move aimed at creating new business opportunities and boost Internet access in rural areas.

Investors seeking loans will be required to submit a business plan and have until February 25 to apply for the funds.

The money will be disbursed through Family Bank. An investor can borrow from Sh820,000 to Sh3.3 million repayable with an annual interest rate of 11.5 per cent in three years.

Funding glitch

Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo told investors to apply for the loans through Family Bank.

“Some people have been seeking favours from the MPs with regard to the loans, but this is not going to work since the procedure is that one must go through the bank.”

This comes weeks after a funding glitch hit the model digital centres, threatening five pilot centres started three years ago in Malindi, Meru, Kangundo, Garissa and Mukuru slums in Nairobi.

Nairobi and Mombasa account for 90 per cent of the 6.4 million people who have Internet access, according to data from the Communications Commission of Kenya and the creation of the digital villages —Pasha centres — is meant to expand the Net’s reach.

The centres, most of which will be in the rural areas, will be used for Government e-services, Internet access, computer training, vocational lessons, ICT retail, entertainment and gaming, typing and data entry, printing services, copying and scanning.

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