Kenya press freedom rapidly deteriorating, rights group says

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Press freedom is deteriorating in Kenya as a result of government legislation, threats and attacks, a media rights group said Wednesday.

Kenya's constitution adopted in 2010 guarantees media freedom but since taking power in 2013 President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee coalition has introduced several bills calling for harsh fines and jail terms for journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

Journalists are being threatened, intimidated and attacked and the government is often the culprit, the report said.

The U.S.-based organization has urged American officials "to ensure that Kenya's press freedom record is on the agenda during President Obama's upcoming visit," said CPJ director Joel Simon at a press conference in Nairobi on Wednesday. "Indeed President Obama has made it clear that promoting human rights and press freedom ... are key foreign policy goals of his administration."

One law, currently suspended by the courts, could de-register journalists and prevent them from working for not following vague principles such as "sticking to issues," the report says.

The report said an issue that needs press scrutiny is the security threat from al-Shabab, the Islamic militants based in neighboring Somalia who've claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in Kenya including for the April massacre at Garissa University that killed at least 148 people and the 2013 extremist attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall. Also needing press scrutiny, according to the report, is the situation for Kenya's deputy president who is under indictment from the International Criminal Court, although similar charges were dropped against the president.

"Security operations, anti-terror operations, the ICC case, state spending, land deals, and corruption are the most sensitive topics most likely to get journalists in trouble," said the CPJ report.