Journalists threatened with violence or intimidation while covering Kenya's presidential election on Monday will be able to report the abuse to a distress hotline, in an effort to prevent the hostilities that marred the 2007 poll. All journalists with Kenyan election accreditation will be given the support line number, established by the Media Council of Kenya with funding from the Rory Peck Trust.
Tina Carr, director of the Rory Peck Trust, said the hotline would offer urgent assistance – including evacuation or medical attention – to journalists in danger.
Early reports suggest a handful of local journalists have been attacked or faced intimidation while covering politics in Kenya since February. In the disputed 2007 election, independent journalists were targeted by both police and members of the public amid widespread ethnic violence in which more than 1,200 people were killed.
Victor Bwire, deputy chief executive and programmes manager the Media Council of Kenya, said: "This partnership to support Kenya's independent journalists at such a critical time, is our acknowledgement of the important role that they play in the reporting of elections in Kenya, and our concern for the safety of those who do the reporting."
Carr said the hotline was vital to journalists in Kenya, many of whom are freelance and operate without the support of major media organisations.
The hotline is being administered by Bwire and Tom Rhodes, East Africa consultant of the Committee to Protect Journalists, as well as a network of regional journalist organisations.
At least 15 people were reportedly killed on Monday as small pockets of violence broke out before the start of voting at 6am local time (3am GMT). As in 2007, the presidential race has come down to two candidates, this time between prime minister Raila Odinga and deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta.
The Media Council of Kenya reported on Saturday that a correspondent for the Star newspaper in Homa Bay, on the north coast of Kenya, was attacked and detained by General Service Unit officers after covering a fracas between two rival political groups.