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UNESCO condemns murder of Kenyan journalist

May 7, 2015

The UN’s cultural body on Thursday urged Kenyan authorities to thoroughly investigate the bludgeoning to death of a veteran journalist whose murder has raised concerns about the erosion of Kenyan press freedom.

John Kituyi, 63, the editor and publisher of the Mirror Weekly, a regional newspaper he founded in the western city of Eldoret, was attacked while walking home from work last Thursday.

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) he was “hit repeatedly with a blunt object” and his phone was stolen, but not his money or his watch. Kituyi later died in hospital from his injuries.

“It is important that the Kenyan authorities conduct a thorough investigation into this crime,” UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova said in a statement.

“The freedom to produce, disseminate and receive news and information from free, diverse and independent media hinges on states’ commitment to ensure that media workers can carry out their professional duties without fear of violence and reprisal.

“This crime should not go unpunished.”

The CPJ said that those close to Kituyi suspected he had been targeted for a story his newspaper published about deputy president William Ruto’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) headlined: “Now ICC plot to jail Ruto.”

Ruto has been on trial at the ICC since September 2013 on charges of organising post-election violence in the east African country in 2007-2008. More than 1,200 people died and 600,000 were displaced in the chaos.

The CPJ said that since the ICC case began its research showed an increase in witnesses being killed and journalists forced to flee or go into hiding.

France’s Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also condemned the murder.

“We urge Kenyan authorities to send a strong message that attacks, threats or crimes against journalists will not go unpunished,” said programme director Lucie Morillon.

Kenya is placed 100th out of 180 countries in the 2015 RSF press freedom index.

After Kiyuti’s death the Kenyan Correspondents Association warned of “a pattern of increasing threats, intimidation (and) assault of journalists, which borders on impunity.”

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.