World Association of News Publishers

Kenya MFC Holds Safety Training Workshop for Journalists

Kenya MFC Holds Safety Training Workshop for Journalists

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The Kenya Media Freedom Committee held a two-day newsroom safety workshop in the outskirts of Nairobi on 15 and 16 December, drawing participants from major news outlets around the country.

By Bernard Mwinzi

Conducted by a team of contracted security experts, the training was officially opened by Dumisani Moyo, the Africa regional manager of WAN-IFRA’s Strengthening Media and Society (SMS) programme. There, Moyo lauded the initiative for seeking to “fill the skills and information gaps that are rarely addressed by media employers.”

The training covered a wide range of issues, including surveillance and counter-surveillance strategies for journalists, how to mask reporters’ digital footprints, fake news and its potential risk to journalists, emotional safety and security, and the often emotive issue of sexual harassment in newsrooms.

Churchill Otieno, leader of the Kenya MFC, said this was the beginning of an industry-wide awareness programme that will rely on the first cohorts to spread the message of safety and security to their newsrooms.

“We will empower the participants to start and sustain conversations around these subjects within their newsrooms,” said Otieno, adding that the long-term objective is to have Kenyan news organisations not only aware of the changing environments in which journalists work, but also proactive in addressing emerging needs, risks and threats.

The safety and security of journalists has often been a footnote in the story of newsroom management, increasingly left to human resource managers, rather than editors, to steer. Yet, in an increasingly volatile world made even more dangerous by cybercrime, never before has there been a greater need to address the safety concerns of reporters – many of whom bear the brunt of the dangers of the news gathering frontline.

The Kenya MFC sees these trainings and newsroom capacity building initiatives as a simple yet efficient and cost-effective way of creating safety and protection protocols for reporters, promoting trauma counselling, and offering regular and professional safety training. In collaboration with the Media Council of Kenya and other industry bodies, it works to sustain dialogue between the media industry and local security institutions.

This is important for the industry as, according to Guy Berger, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, “threats to the safety of those doing journalism amount to censorship by intimidation and force.

“The results are widespread self-censorship and a public that is deprived of the right to know,” said Berger in a 2016 article on the safety of journalists in Kenya and how it impacts the trade. “The rule of law is weakened when citizens see the lack of protection and justice for those who use the right to free expression on a public platform.”

A 2016 UNESCO report, titled Supporting Safety of Journalists in Kenya, showed that almost 90 percent of reporters believe their employers do not offer any safety and security measures to protect them. ­

“Not all media organisations have written safety policies for staff,” read the report, which found that “what is available is ad hoc, applied whenever security incidents arise.” ­ Where safety policies exist, the report continued, they do not extend to freelance journalists, their assistants, local employees and support personnel, and most journalists are not at liberty to refuse dangerous assignments.

The Nairobi gathering addressed these concerns in detail and used the experiences of reporters to highlight problem areas and suggest solutions.

“But the work is not complete yet,” cautioned Otieno. “We should aim at developing a standardised safety and security protocol for all Kenyan newsrooms, which should become the guiding Bible on the job for both reporters and their editors.”


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2018-01-29 11:04

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