Kenya warns unaccredited foreign journalists

Nairobi, Kenya: Kenyan government has warned it will prosecute and deport foreign journalists operating illegally in the country.

Officials from the department of film licensing and information claimed Wednesday the number of foreign journalists had increased just before the general election.

Most of them were accredited to cover the event but they have refused to return to their countries and started to “shoot documentaries”.

“It has come to our attention that some journalists went ahead and also engaged in documentary film making using the same press passes,” said head of the department of film licensing Ernest Kerich.

He added: “This not only breached the law, but it also denied the country revenue.”

Kerich said they will work with other agencies whose mandate is to accredit journalists to ensure that the requirements of Cap 222 are followed to the latter and anybody caught breaking the same will be prosecuted.

The official told a press conference in Nairobi that commercial photography which some of the journalists are allegedly engaged in requires one to obtain a filming license from the ministry.

He however did not state how many they are and if they had tried to contact them.

Kerich said the law says that no film shall be made within Kenya for public exhibition or sale within or outside Kenya except under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a filming license issued by the licensing officer.

Acting director of information Joseph Owiti directed all foreign journalists in the country to obtain valid press cards issued by his department.

“They know what is required for them to be issued with the press cards and they should oblige,” he said.

The officials insisted they are not objecting the operations of the journalists in the country but demanded that they ensure their stay is legal.

The move came after sections of government officials riled at the foreign media in the country for what he termed as negative reporting.

Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo has been in the lead in criticizing the foreign media for allegedly focusing on negative issues with misrepresented facts.

Whereas he did not mention the media houses, Ndemo said the channels were out to portray Kenya as violent and hence scare away tourists.

Kenyans online had reacted angrily at a CNN story about an unnamed militia group preparing to cause mayhem in the Rift Valley in the election period.

CNN defended the story as well-sourced saying the potential threat of violence has been well documented by Human Rights Watch and the Kenyan Police among others.

Last week, President Barack Obama made a statement in a gala for journalists in Washington that appeared to suggest that Kenya is not a safe destination for foreign correspondents.

“They’ve risked everything to bring us stories from places like Syria and Kenya, stories that need to be told,” he said.

Obama prefixed the statement that compared Syria with Kenya by telling the journalist that, “the truth is our country needs you and our democracy needs you.”

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