JOHANNESBURG - The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on authorities in Kenya to immediately investigate the assault of journalists by police at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

Dramatic scenes unfolded at Nairobi’s Jono Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on Monday night as Kenyan opposition politician Miguna Miguna physically resisted efforts to re-deport him from Kenya, with the police assaulting journalists who attempted to cover the stand-off.

Miguna, a dual citizen of Kenya and Canada, arrived at the airport on Monday afternoon after a six-week stay in Canada where he had been deported to on February 6, 2018 after his arrest for his role in the controversial January 30 swearing-in of National Super Alliance (NASA) opposition leader Raila Odinga, as the People's President.

Following a nine-hour stand-off at JKIA, which included the police physically manhandling him as they attempted to carry him on to a Dubai-bound Emirates flight, the pilot of the plane, which had been delayed specifically for Miguna, took off after witnessing the violent scenes.

As the dramatic events unfolded, a number of journalists were beaten up by police in an endeavour to stop TV and newspaper reporters and cameramen reporting the scene.

"Authorities in Kenya cannot resolve their political disputes by beating up journalists," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal from New York.

"Kenyan authorities must urgently investigate this attack and put an end to any assaults on the press by security personnel, including police forces."

But CPJ’s pleas may fall on deaf ears.

Dennis Itumbi, who heads digital communication for the office of the president in Kenya, said in a Facebook post that police had "done well."

Itumbi suggested that journalists had defied police orders and were filming in unauthorised areas.

Police spokesperson Charles Owino declined to provide comment to CPJ, and Inspector General Joseph Boinnet of Kenya's National Police Service did not respond to two phone calls and a text message seeking comment.

Ministry of Interior spokesperson Mwenda Njoka told CPJ that the journalists had been in a restricted area of the airport.

Press conditions in Kenya have deteriorated drastically in recent months.

CPJ documented harassment of and attacks on journalists by security personnel and politicians during the elections in 2017, and in February authorities shut down four television channels in connection with their coverage of an opposition event in Nairobi.

Meanwhile, the fiery and defiant Miguna, who has declared himself the general of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), has accused the police of treating him like a dog as he languishes in police detention at JKIA. 

In a Wednesday statement, he said police had locked him “inside a tiny and filthy toilet without access to basic hygiene and necessities of life”.

African News Agency/ANA