Nairobi — The Friday night assault on journalists at Nairobi’s Kettle House Bar and Grill has provoked strong condemnation from various quarters across the country.
The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) has expressed its dismay over the attack on its members, branding it as “barbaric” and unjustifiable.
In a statement, Secretary General Erick Oduor called upon law enforcement agencies to hold the nightclub owner accountable for the damages and injuries inflicted on the journalists during the incident that occurred during a raid on shisha.
KUJ emphasized that journalists have a vital role in serving society, especially when it comes to matters of public interest, and their dedication to the greater good of Kenya should not be obstructed by acts of violence.
Kileleshwa Member of County Assembly, Robert Alai, whose jurisdiction covers the location of the attack, has also joined the chorus of condemnation. Alai urged for a swift investigation into the matter to ensure that those responsible face legal consequences.
In his statement, Alai underscored the significant role played by the media in disseminating crucial information to the public and stressed the importance of safeguarding media freedom.
The attack occurred as journalists from various media houses accompanied a National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) team during a crackdown on shisha smoking at Kettle House Bar and Grill. The operation was specifically targeted at the establishment due to reports of it allowing patrons to smoke shisha within the club, which has ties to politician Millicent Omanga.
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The incident left several journalists from different media outlets with severe injuries. The raid, conducted by NACADA officials accompanied by police officers, occurred at 11 pm, resulting in an altercation with the club’s bouncers who aggressively confronted and assaulted the journalists, confiscating their recording equipment and stealing their valuables and cash.
Among the injured journalists, Nation Media photographer Boniface Bogita was stabbed twice in the ribs but is now reported to be in stable condition. Kenya Broadcasting Corporation journalist Jane Kibira was also stabbed in the back, while Boniface Okendo and Francis Odee from the Standard Media Group were physically assaulted, and their cameras were damaged.
Police eventually restored order and arrested the bouncers, who had tried to evade capture by changing their attire and hiding in the bar’s toilets.
The incident has highlighted concerns from local residents who have complained about the club’s excessive noise levels and apparent disregard for complaints.
The crackdown on shisha was led by NACADA Chief Executive Officer Antony Omerikwa and Head of Enforcement Nicholas Kosgei. Kosgei reported the successful arrest of multiple suspects and the confiscation of shisha pots during the operation.
Kenya banned shisha in 2017, prohibiting all aspects of its use, import, manufacture, sale, promotion, and distribution, with penalties starting at Sh50,000 in fines or a minimum jail term of six months. Kenya joined neighboring East African countries Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda in outlawing shisha use.