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We at The Elephant stand with our fellow journalists against the attacks meted out during coverage of the recent demonstrations. An independent, impartial, and objective media is a pillar of our democracy and crucial to the state, the opposition, and the wider public. Press freedom is non-negotiable.

Going by recent events, we are quickly sliding down a precarious path as regards freedom of the press. The spike in disinformation, influence peddling, hostility and attacks blurs the ability of the media to deliver timely, critical and credible information necessary to help the public make informed decisions and hold meaningful conversations.

We are also particularly concerned by the targeting of specific media persons, media institutions, international journalists, and media industry practitioners.

In March 2023 alone there have been least 45 reported cases of attacks, theft, harassment and arrests by both state and non-state actors, with some of the journalists affected suffering direct attacks and bodily harm.

The genesis of these attacks can be linked to the publication of photos and the issuance of summons by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) following the March 20th demonstrations. The information published by the state agencies on social media platforms included false, misleading and misconstrued claims against participants in the demonstration.

The unintended outcome has been the formulation, and instrumentalization of hostility and violence against members of the Fourth Estate. So far, we have witnessed the targeting of reporters, photographers, videographers, and freelance media practitioners by the police, hooligans, hired goons, and looters keen to cause mayhem.

As chroniclers of societal events, scribes of the evolution of political demands, and recorders of unwarranted, gross violations, journalists have a solemn duty to inform the public on matters of public interest. They therefore must be accorded respect, allowed space in the political contestations as neutral observers, and respected as repositories of current and historical memories.

We urge our colleagues to prioritize their safety while out in the field, assess the risk factors, and coordinate with their newsrooms and law enforcers, in the course of their work during demonstrations.

We urge freelance journalists to coordinate, liaise, and embed with their colleagues for their own safety. We also call for urgent investigations into the robbery and assault of journalists, and for the speedy prosecution of the perpetrators. We ask that public figures refrain from spotlighting specific media persons and media houses, and ask aggrieved parties to channel their complaints against media persons and institutions through the legal channels as provided by law.

The Elephant Desk