The recent spate of insecurity across the country, especially the killing of security officers, is a grave concern, not only to the security of the country, safety of Kenyans, but a big threat to the democratisation process in Kenya.
With the August 8 General Election approaching, the attacks pose serious challenges. In an already charged electioneering environment, where journalists are expected to be on the forefront reporting on the campaigns, insecurity incidents will increase tension.
When the media are covering national security issues especially on matters terrorism the security agents will claim that they lack ethics in their work and are supporting the cause of the terrorists by giving exposure to the acts, spreading fear and indirectly contributing to the public legitimacy of their actions.
There is a likelihood that journalists will suffer a lot through physical attacks, trauma, loss of equipment and mental stress.
It’s not in doubt that the Constitution provides for right to information for the media and other Kenyans particularly when it is of national importance, because the media has a responsibility to inform the public on matters that affect their lives.
Given that national security is back on the national agenda, media coverage is important.
A number of laws exist that have serious provisions on media coverage of national security, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the National Intelligence Service Act in 2012, the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act (2009), and the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (2010).
In addition, a number of administrative pronouncements and policy statements have been made by the authorities targeted at the media.
The Constitution has relevant provisions on freedom of expression and the relevant limitations. Section 66(1) on alarming publications provides that any person who publishes any false statement, rumour or report that is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace is guilty.
The Official Secrets Act provides that any person who obtains, collects, records, publishes or communicates in whatever manner to any other person any code word, plan, article, document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to a foreign power or disaffected person commits an offence.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act No 12 of 2012 criminalises anyone who ‘advocates, glorifies, advises, incited or facilitates’ the commission of a terrorist act or any act preparatory to a terrorist act. The offence is punishable by a term not exceeding 20 years.
The Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya provides that the media should avoid presenting acts of violence, armed robberies, banditry and terrorist activities in a manner that glorifies such anti-social conduct.