Amnesty International Kenya condemns the weaponisation of contempt of court provisions to criminalise journalism. In order to lawfully limit freedom of expression and freedom of the press, provisions must be clear and concise, have a legitimate purpose, be necessary, and be proportionate. Jailing is unnecessary and disproportionate and thus unjustifiable.
Today, a journalist has been imprisoned for allegedly defaming a witness despite the High Court declaring criminal defamation unconstitutional in 2018. Contempt of court was used to jail a journalist for reporting on a corruption case to protect the witness’s reputation. It should have been possible to remedy the situation with less restrictive means, such as civil defamation, even if the reporting was inaccurate.
Jailing journalists for reporting on corruption will create a chilling effect that will shrink the space for accountability and democracy. The witness’s rights and reputation should be protected, however, not in such a punitive manner.