ARTICLE 19 welcomes that Kenya accepted all 26 recommendations on protections related to the right to freedom of expression during its third UPR. This includes recommendations to ensure the safety of journalists and human rights defenders, to guarantee the rights to peaceful assembly and association, to implement access to information legislation, and to create a data protection framework in line with the international standards on the right to privacy.
Kenya accepted multiple recommendations related to the safety of journalists and media workers. While we recognise this commitment, we are deeply concerned about recent attacks and harassment against journalists. During the COVID-19 pandemic period, we have documented 48 violations against journalists, including arrests, physical assault, and online harassment. In August, the authorities arrested and seized the equipment of freelance journalists Milton Were and Jack Okinyi in connection to their work on a corruption scandal in the country. In order to fulfil its UPR commitments, Kenya must conduct full and exhaustive investigations into all human rights violations against journalists and media workers, and prosecute the perpetrators of these violations.
While we welcome that Kenya accepted all recommendations related to excessive use of force, we are alarmed with growing police brutality in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in informal settlements. In July, during the SabaSaba March for Our Lives in Nairobi, Kenyans who were peacefully marching to the office of the president to deliver a petition were met with excessive use of force by the law enforcement officers, including the use of teargas. We urge the Kenyan government to take heed of these recommendations and immediately cease the excessive use of force, including in the context of protests.
We commend Kenya for accepting all recommendations to finally operationalise the Public Benefit Organisations Act of 2013 which will guarantee the freedom of association when in force, including the right to form, join, or participate in the activities of any association. At the same time, Kenya also accepted a recommendation to review the Associations Bill of 2018 which is out of line with the Public Benefit Organisations Act by imposing imprisonment and heavy fines for operating or attending a meeting of an unregistered association. Now is the time for Kenya to fully operationalise the Public Benefit Organisations Act and amend the Associations Bill to create an enabling environment for civil society in the country.
We once again welcome that Kenya accepted all of its UPR recommendations on freedom of expression, and urge the government to now implement them to their full extent – commitments on paper must be translated into action.