Campaigners say attack on John Kituyi, who was bludgeoned to death near his home in Eldoret, follows a pattern of intimidation of journalists
The brutal murder of a journalist in western Kenya has triggered alarm about what campaigners call an increasingly repressive environment for press freedom in the country.
John Kituyi was bludgeoned to death at about 8pm on 30 April while walking home from his office by unknown assailants who took away his phone but left his cash and watch untouched.
Kituyi, founder and proprietor of The Mirror periodical, struggled with the killers before the assailants made their escape on a motorbike, leaving him in a pool of blood just metres away from his home in the town of Eldoret.
William Oloo Janak, chairman of the Kenya Correspondents Association, called the murder an assault on press freedom and said it was part of a pattern of intimidation of journalists.
“The attack and killing of Kituyi, is a testimony that journalists in Kenya are increasingly being targeted. A number of journalists based in Eldoret and other parts of the country have been threatened, intimidated and physically assaulted,” he said.
Kituyi’s weekly newsmagazine, one of a number of small newspapers that try to challenge more established outlets, covered mainly local news but had also featured controversial national matters.
Its most recent edition discussed the prospects of a successful prosecution of William Ruto, the country’s deputy president who faces charges of crimes against humanity at the international criminal court related to the mass killings and displacements that accompanied Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said its sources had linked threats levelled at Kituyi to that story.
The trial in The Hague has been seen by legal watchers as demonstrating the limits of international tribunals in prosecuting powerful serving government officials.
The body of one witness involved in the case, Timothy Yebei, was found in March in a thicket at the Tsavo National Park.
“We condemn the murder of editor and publisher John Kituyi,” said CPJ EastAfrica representative Tom Rhodes. “Authorities in Eldoret must work efficiently and thoroughly to prosecute the killers and demonstrate that such violence will not be tolerated.”
Although Kenya has historically boasted one of the freest and most vibrant media environments on the continent, the government has moved in recent months to pass laws that campaigners say will inhibit journalists from reporting freely.
A spate of terror attacks in the country has also raised fears that Kenya may move in the direction of neighbours such as Ethiopia which have severely restricted media freedom in the name of battling terror.