Police trained in press freedom

Police say some journalists are overzealous
Over the last ten years, almost 9 out of 10 journalist deaths have gone unresolved, and despite recent improvements, the global impunity rate stands at 86%.
Jemima Beukes
A group of journalists and 27 high-ranking officers from national police training academies from eleven countries on the continent convened in Mombasa, Kenya, between 16 and 18, to craft a blueprint to guide engagements between the two parties going forward.

The regional training of trainers for security forces on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in Africa was hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

Different views

Some of the issues raised by the police stem from their perception that journalists handle information irresponsibly, often putting investigations in jeopardy or their own lives at risk, while the journalists argued the police are politicised.

Some questioned the level of patriotism amongst journalists, while journalists, on the other hand, argued that the police should distinguish between patriotism and the interests of governments and politicians.

"Some journalists don't have a patriotic outlook, and security personnel have a duty to protect society and put things in order if there is chaos. That's why you see journalists accuse the police of holding information, but information is sensitive. Some journalists are overzealous," a police official said.

Staggering toll

In his opening remarks, Professor Hubert Gijzen, representative of the Unesco regional office for eastern Africa, pointed out that journalists continue to be killed at an alarming rate.

"According to our Observatory, 955 journalists have lost their lives since 2012. Seventy-one have been killed since January, making 2022 the deadliest year since 2018. Just as shocking is the fact that over the past ten years, almost nine in 10 journalist killings remain unresolved. While we are seeing some improvements in recent years, the global impunity rate stands at 86%," he said.

He also added that security forces and police must ensure the safety of journalists so that they can do their work and access and cover cases of crimes and other matters of public interest.

Safety boosts trust

The police were advised to ensure that their interactions with the media are based on professional relationships and that they interact with journalists in a manner that respects press freedom.

"I want to mention that in a climate where journalists are safe, people find it easier to access quality information, and many Sustainable Development Goals become achievable as a result; it creates an enabling environment for democratic governance, poverty reduction, environmental protection, gender equality and the empowerment of women, justice, and a culture of human rights, to name a few."

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