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Media Council, KUJ, Journalists Protest Media Harassment from Bungoma County Governor

On Monday 41 journalists from Bungoma County took to the streets to protest persistent attacks against journalists and media independence, calling for more protection and freedom to carry out their work

The journalist demanded the summon of Bungoma County Governor Wycliffe Wafula Wangamati to record a statement on the same and issue a public apology to the victim.

The governor is accused of issuing threats to Mr Jimmy Simiyu, a journalist with Sulwe Fm, part of Royal Media Service.

According to the reporter, Jimmy Simiyu, the governor used a proxy’s phone to call him and berated him over a story the reporter had filed.

Simiyu told colleagues who accompanied him to report the incident that he had been threatened with death by the governor who was furious about the ‘negative story.’

In a memorandum to the County Commissioner and Clerk of the County Assembly following the journalists said they “were displeased with the conduct of the Bungoma County Governor Mr Philip Wanganamati.”

“The threats coming from a person from the Governor’s rank need not be ignored or taken lightly”.

The journalists also demanded that cases of harassment and violence of journalists be investigated.

Media Watchdogs

The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) have condemned Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati for allegedly issuing threats to a local journalist based in the border town.

In a statement, the MCK said it had been in touch with the Sulwe FM journalist and advised Simiyu to make a statement with the police following the threats.

“As a first intervention, the reporter was advised by the Council to report the matter to police which was recorded as OB 16/13/6/21 at the Bungoma Police Station,” said MCK. 

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MCK has said it will continue to protect journalists working in Kenya and has urged police to accord the journalist security as the matter is investigated. 

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“The Council is also aware of allegations that the Governor called the reporter to threaten him after an editor from the media house tipped him off about a story that the reporter had filed over an event held in Bungoma County on Saturday 12th June 2021.

KUJ Secretary General Eric Oduor vowed to follow the development to the bitter end to get to the truth of the matter with a view of protecting journalists. 

“We already have a name…this editor must vomit the money,” Oduor said.  

Denial

The governor, through his Director of Communications Tim Machi, has denied threatening the journalist explaining that all he did was to inquire why the reporter did not reach out to him for a comment.

“Specifically, the Governor asked whether Jimmy tried calling him or any of his officers to respond to allegations by MCAs clearly known to act on instructions from a known puppeteer,” said Machi. 

“By his own admission, Jimmy said he did not to which the Governor asked, whether it was a norm and journalistic practice to file one-sided stories! There was no response. Was the Governor out of order to ask and expect this of Jimmy? Hardly. Does doing so jeopardise or interfere with Jimmy’s job as a journalist? No. Does this qualify as a threat? Not in the least, said Machi.”

The reporter has, however, rubbished Machi’s statement, saying that was not what transpired between him and the governor over the tense phone conversation. 

“He threatened me with death,” Jimmy Simiyu said.

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