Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the beating that Standard Media Group reporter Isaiah Gwengi received from a special border police unit in the western town of Usenge yesterday and calls for an investigation into this unacceptable act of police brutality.
After arresting Gwengi, members of the Quick Response Team (QRT) stripped him naked and gave him a severe beating, inflicting injuries to his head and parts of his body, and confiscated his phone and SIM cards.
Gwengi was arrested together with human rights activist Rodgers Ochieng while interviewing Usenge residents who have been complaining of systematic harassment by the QRT and its brutal methods.
After receiving treatment at a hospital for their injuries, Gwengi and Ochieng were held overnight at Usenge police station and were released on bail this morning.
“This level of police violence towards a journalist who was just trying to do his job is absolutely intolerable,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We ask the authorities to conduct an immediate investigation in order to identify the QRT members responsible and bring them to justice, or else the entire Kenyan police will be tarnished by this affair.”
The QRT’s deployment in this border area a year ago has been the source of a great deal of tension and has led to protests against its harassment of the local population and its extremely violent methods. Four persons have been fatally shot by the unit in recent months.
Gwengi has written several articles accusing the QRT of corruption and condemning the brutality of its raids and, in January, he reported being threatened by a QRT officer. The police said they arrested him for inciting Usenge’s residents to use violence against the unit.
Kenya is ranked 95th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.