Thursday, September 23News For London

Award-winning British journalist deported from Kenya after unexplained detention

A British journalist working for The Times London was deported from Nairobi, Kenya on Friday after being held for over 24 hours in an airport cell, without any explanation. The expulsion comes days after an American journalist, Justin Lynch was arrested and deported from Sudan.

Jerome Starkey, 35, was detained when he landed from Britain in Jomo Kenyatta airport. The journalist had been a resident in Nairobi for over four years following his reporting days from Afghanistan that won him accolades.

The African correspondent for The Times has reported on stories such as that of the high profile British aristocrat trial charged with smuggling cocaine worth millions of pounds into Kenya. He also covered a story on a British citizen, sentenced to death, who was denied legal help.

Authorities remained silent on the deportation of the British journalist, giving no reasons for his expulsion. Deputy Police Chief, Rono Burnei, stated that Starkey was being detained over immigration issues but failed to provide further information. There was no clear reason given by officials for his confinement.

Journalists in Kenya have expressed concerns following the event. A statement released by the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa read: “We are alarmed by the decision of the Kenyan authorities to deport the Africa correspondent of The Times newspaper, Jerome Starkey, to the UK.”

Starkey, posted about the ordeal on social media with #WhyIloveKenya in a series of tweets, until his phone was confiscated by officials. He captured the room in which he was being questioned overnight by immigration, special agents and anti-terrorism police.

The final tweet announced his deportation from Kenya, under unclear circumstances.

In an interview with Kenyan press, Starkey firmly explained he was initially told by immigration officers the problem was his work permit. Officials then said that there was a block imposed on his passport and he was being held for security reasons.


Interview with Jerome Starkey on Kenyan media

Daniel Waweru, spokesman for the Kenyan president, declined requests to comment in detail on the event. “I simply don’t know why he was detained,” he said. He stated further that local authorities would provide details in due course.

His expulsion has sparked conversation among the international community of journalists, many voicing their dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity on the red flag issued against the reporter. Amnesty International criticised the government on its silence.

“The Kenyan authorities’ continued failure to formally inform Jerome Starkey of why he has been detained and to allow him access to his lawyer amounts to arbitrary detention. He has the right to know why he is being held and upon what grounds.

“We are monitoring the situation closely, and if it transpires that Jerome is being held due to his reporting, this would be a flagrant violation of his right to freedom of expression. Journalism is not a crime.”

– Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

 The CPJ in 2015 released a study showing the challenges foreign journalists face in Kenya, which include a combination of legal and physical harassment making it extremely difficult to work in Kenya. CPJ spoke up against injustice and impunity.

 “Kenya’s detention of a journalist, particularly on such unclear grounds, is cause for serious alarm.

“Kenyan authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Jerome Starkey and make clear that the country stands by its commitments to press freedom.”

 Murithi Mutiga, CPJ East Africa representative and Guardian journalist

Kenyans have taken to twitter to give their opinions on the matter. Some condemned the government while others said the consequences could have been worse than deportation.

Four days on, the Kenyan government is yet to release an official statement on the deportation of the journalist.