BWIRE: Threats to journalists raise concerns about ‘Mighty Men of God’

It’s the highest form of mockery and absurdity for the men of “God” to resort to harassing journalists and the media because the media has called them out. It’s very unwelcome and discomforting that religious leaders and formations with questionable characters, unable to deal with the truth and reality of their earthly things are now training their guns on the media, harassing journalists and curtailing media freedom in Kenya. That persons calling themselves servants of the almighty can take such thinking including issuing threats to journalists because they are unable to deal with the repercussions of their indulgencies is to say the least unacceptable. It’s not desperate that the clergy can take law unto their own hands, and threaten others or promise to curse others. The position of religious leaders requires them to hold themselves responsibly and beyond reproach and a number of them do so. However, there is a caliber of some religious leaders that have severally engaged in earthly things that including greed, corruption, miracle for hire and related that have attracted scrutiny of their actions. Some have turned the missionary path into a commercial venture that they misuse and attract themselves to disasters, upon which if the media exposes, they invest in harassing the journalists. It’s wrong for the religious leaders to indulge and when asked or put under the spotlight, you turn against the messenger. A number of stories done exposing the church are shared by their followers, who witness the corruption of the soul that the leaders are doing. In an era of accountability and fight against corruption in the country, its weird that some clergy, put under the spotlight for what people believe to be corruption and unbecoming behavior, would want to intimidate journalists to shy away from commenting on their excesses. The character of some of the religious leaders became alarming to such an extent that the Government had wanted to control them, which people including the media raised concerns. Media carried a number of stories on why the Government had no reason to regulate religion. While the position is that religion should not be regulated, but the conduct of some of the people that walk in the guise of religion must be regulated. The Constitution of Kenya for example states that the Bill of Rights is an integral part of Kenya’s democratic state (Article 19 (1)) and that; “The purpose of recognizing and protecting human rights and fundamental freedom is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realization of the potential of all human beings.” Media as the Fourth Estate has a duty to hold other estates, including the clergy, to account for their actions. The work of religious leaders impacts the society and the media must interrogate them on behalf of the public, which the two institutions serve without fear or favour It’s worth noting that Prophet David Owuor and Pastor James Maina Nganga have the right to complain and follow due processes of law, should they feel that the media has violated their rights. And they will be listened to, but to take law unto their hands or mobilize their followers to harass journalists or other persons is unacceptable. Journalism is not a crime, and shall continue to play a watchdog role on all institutions and their leadership to cushion Kenyans from exploitation and manipulation by religious leaders who are now robbing them off their properties. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 guarantees this freedom that include freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas (33) and there has been positive advances in the liberalization of airwaves which has allowed for a vibrant print, electronic and social media. In 1997, UNESCO Member States passed Resolution 29 on “Condemnation of violence against journalists”. The Resolution was adopted by States in response to serious concerns about the killing of journalists in many countries and the evidence of the spread of impunity – that is, the persistent failure of the lawful authorities to bring those responsible to justice. UN Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006) condemns attacks against journalists in conflict situations The Resolution, unanimously adopted in 2006, recalled and acknowledged that journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilians, to be protected as such. Provisions protecting the right to life, personal liberty and integrity, freedom from torture, freedom of expression, and the right to an effective remedy which are incorporated within international human rights law instruments provide journalists with the necessary guarantees against violations of their rights and risks to their safety. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights guarantees individuals against arbitrary deprivation of the right to life (Article 4), establishes an absolute prohibition of torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 5), guarantees the right to liberty and security of the person (Article 6), and freedom of expression (Article 9). The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, from 2012, which “recommends working in cooperation with governments, media houses, professional associations and NGOS to conduct awareness raising campaigns on a wide range of issues such as existing international instruments and conventions, the growing dangers posed by emerging threats to media professionals, including non-state actors, as well as various existing practical guides on the safety of journalists”.

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