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Press FreedomKenya

DW journalist attacked by police in Kenya

Rebecca Staudenmaier
May 1, 2021

Police fired tear gas canisters at DW's East Africa correspondent Mariel Müller while she was covering a protest in Nairobi. Amnesty International and the Foreign Press Association of Africa have condemned the attack.

DW correspondent Mariel Müller interviews a protester in Nairobi, Kenya
DW correspondent Mariel Müller was interviewing a protester when police fired a tear gas canister at herImage: Ed Ram

DW journalist Mariel Müller on police attack in Kenya

A Deutsche Welle correspondent was attacked by police while covering a demonstration in Nairobi on Saturday.

Kenyan authorities fired tear gas canisters at DW's East Africa correspondent Mariel Müller with one canister grazing her and a second injuring her leg while she was conducting an interview. 

'You just shot me'

Müller was covering a peaceful protest against police brutality and coronavirus lockdown measures in central Nairobi at the time of the attack.

Around 40 protesters gathered to voice their opposition to COVID restrictions and the economic impact on poorer communities. The demonstrators were careful to adhere to social distancing rules "to not anger the police," Müller told DW.

"The police were there and observed the first part [of the protest] and then eventually started firing tear gas," she said.

The first time Müller was struck, she said she was grazed by a canister when police began launching tear gas in the direction of protesters and reporters.

Police moved in with batons and detained several demonstrators. One man was shoved in a truck after police tried to take away the sign he was holding.

After a while, "it appeared as if the situation had calmed down," said Müller. She and the camera team moved to the sidelines of the demonstration and began interviewing an older woman taking part in the protest.

"We noticed that something was happening. But then it was too late — a shot was fired. I noticed that my leg started hurting and that I'd been hit there," she said.

The canister was shot from a tear gas launcher.

"It's not like they just throw [the canister] and then it's on the ground and rolls somewhere, but it's really a gun," she said. "They load the gun with these small silver canisters."

Müller added that police appeared to be purposefully aiming at her and the camera crew.

She approached authorities afterward, telling the officer who had been firing the canisters: "You just shot me, you just hit me in my leg."

The officer denied it and walked away, "but he knew exactly what had happened," Müller said.

DW condemns targeted attack

DW Director General Peter Limbourg strongly condemned the attack and called for an investigation.

"We condemn this act of police violence. Any attack against the media must be investigated and lead to consequences," he said.

DW Editor-in-Chief Manuela Kasper-Claridge called the attack "absolutely unacceptable," adding that "freedom of the press has to be protected."

Amnesty International's Kenya branch also called for authorities to launch an investigation, and slammed "the brutal attack on journalists and protesters" in Nairobi.

The Foreign Press Association of Africa criticized the actions of the police officer who "deliberately" fired on Müller.

"No journalist should be harmed while doing their jobs," responded the Foreign Correspondent's Association of East Africa, adding that they were "extremely disturbed" by the reports.

Journalists increasingly targeted

A UNESCO report published in September found that journalists "have been increasingly attacked, arrested and even killed" while covering protests.

The report also revealed a "wider upward trend" in the use of force by security forces and police at demonstrations.

According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, 54 media workers were killed in 2020.

The attack on a DW correspondent comes ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

DW's Andreas Noll contributed reporting to this article.