A clampdown on a public sphere : the impacts of Al-Shabaab terror attacks on the Kenyan media freedom
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In October 2011, the Kenya Defence Forces entered Southern Somalia for organized military operations with a Swahili codenamed “Operation Linda Nchi”, with the aim of capturing the port city Kismayu and weakening the Al-Shabaab militia group. This was as a result of kidnappings of foreign tourists in the Coastal Kenya and aid workers. The military operation however, prompted a domino effect of retaliatory attacks in Kenya by these insurgents. These terror attacks have resulted into severe impacts in Kenya that have also had an effect on the Kenyan media, which is characterized as one among the most vibrant and respected medias in Africa. This thesis aims at exploring the impacts of these terror attacks on the Kenyan media freedom. It focuses on the three major terror attacks; Westgate Mall, Mpeketoni and Garissa University attack, which took place in Kenya. It will then look further into the attack that took place in the Kenya Defence Forces’ camp in El-Adde Somalia. In order to address this study, a qualitative case study research method was incorporated to gather data regarding these attacks and how they have had an impact on the media freedom in Kenya. The study reveals that the Kenyan media is in fact facing a clamp-down in that the impacts of the Al-Shabaab attacks have had an implication on the media freedom albeit, indirectly. This has been through the string of anti-terrorism measures stipulated in the Security Law Amendment Act, which was passed into law by the parliament in 2014. President Kenyatta backed-up these laws as a measure to improve the country’s security scope in detecting, deterring and disrupting threats to the national security. The new laws have ignited major debates on the spirit of the Kenyan constitution regarding freedom of expression due to the significant influence it has on what the media intends to disseminate and how it disseminates it to the public. The study shows that the Kenyan media is a principal institution of the public sphere because it has provided an arena for two-way communication between the citizenry and polity resulting into the building of public opinion. The thesis further adds that the media in Kenya is an interface between the people and the state as an instrument in the flow of public information to the people. Thus, the study argues that the independence of the media and its free access is paramount as a beneficial factor in representing individuals and gauging democracy within the polity. Therefore, the thesis contends that the government is required to devise new strategies and measures to wage war on terror without antagonizing the media operations as it is a key sphere in Kenya.