Radio show hosts live debates on human rights and the police in Kenyan slum

By Kajuju Maore, Camille Roch

Every first Thursday of the month on Pamoja FM, the journalist Philip Muhatia gets prepared for his radio show Change with the Police. At 7:00 AM, he is ready for the one-hour live debate to answer the questions from the slum-dwellers of Kibera, Kenya. 

Phillip Muhatia, also known as ‘The Lion that Eats Humans’, is the voice behind the radio segment Change with the Police. Once a month, Philip goes on air to discuss human rights issues and police reforms with the populations of Kibera, the largest urban slum in East and Central Africa (south of Nairobi).

Change with the Police, broadcast since April 2015, aims to enhance public participation in the police reform process through human rights education. Approximately 2,000 people follow the live talk show where experts debate on reforms, and answer listeners’ questions or comments.

Philip is Project Manager at the volunteer-run community radio Pamoja FM. Each month, he plans with his team which themes they will debate. “Our next show focuses on the genesis of the police reform”, he says. “Looking back at the 2007 post-election crisis in Kenya, we will go back to the origin of the process and why this is important for the country.”

Philip Muhatia (on the right) animates the debate on police reform in the 'Rights Radio Show', later rebranded 'Change with the Police', Nairobi, Kenya, 21 October 2014 © Amnesty International Kenya

Philip explains that many people call the studio to understand what is meant by police reform – the government response to tackle corruption, and promote transparency and accountability among police forces. Listeners ask questions on the vetting process for officers,and how they can explore their right to information and citizen participation.

“Over centuries, the relationship between the police and the public has not been good. A lot of human rights violations have been witnessed, especially in slum areas where I work. Cases of torture, brutality and inhumanity have been on the rise, putting the whole community on panic mode. Both the police and the community don’t understand their rights, for instance their right of being informed of the reasons for arrest, or how and where to report a police officer in case he commits an offence”, Philip explains. “I realised that there was a need for me to get involved by educating my listeners on using radio as a platform to reach many people.”

Hosting a show on human rights has earned Philip the reputation of being fearless, hence the nickname his listeners gave him: The Lion that Eats Humans, (Simba Mla Watu in Swahili).

The radio segment ‘Change with the Police’ empowers slum dwellers to be an informed community that knows their rights, freedoms and responsibilities, and can make informed choices for the prosperity of our nation.
- Philip Muhatia, Journalist and Project Manager at Pamoja FM

Before he launched the segment, Philip attended human rights education training with Amnesty International Kenya on how to run a radio show on human rights. “Throughout our journalistic curriculum, human rights have never been given first priority, one gets to learn very little about advocacy or how to create awareness on those issues. Training with Amnesty International Kenya has been beneficial not only to the community, but also to our team to get and disseminate the information to others, and fight together for our rights. There are so many human rights violations happening in Kibera, now we try to tackle them as an informed community.”

Philip Muhatia interviews Michel Banz, former Human Rights Education Advisor at the International Human Rights Education Centre, as they do a comparative analysis of the police services in Kenya and Denmark, Nairobi, Kenya, 21 October 2014 © Amnesty International Kenya

“During the 2007-2008 post-election violence, Kibera was one of the major areas for police brutality and violence. This is what we are trying to change by supporting the radio show, and conducting projects with the communities living there such as participatory education theatre”, says Juniper Wanjiru, Growth and Human Rights Education Program Assistant at Amnesty International Kenya.

Since the segment was launched, Pamoja FM was able to provide Change with the Police with more airtime and the show is now also broadcast on Saturday afternoon. “Overtime, the radio show has grown in terms of content, and we are planning to develop a similar approach with another community radio station in the city of Kisumu,” Juniper adds.

Guests Michel Banz, former Human Rights Education Advisor at IHREC, and Charles Nyukuri, Growth and Human Rights Education Coordinator at Amnesty International Kenya have a discussion with the listeners on the status of police reforms, Nairobi, Kenya, 21 October 2014 © Amnesty International Kenya

From the discussions held at the radio station, Philip feels that the community understands their rights better and is changing their attitude towards the police. “Community members have started organising a collaborative public forum where they invite the police to address security matters; this is something that never happened before due to enmity between the two groups”, he says.

Through human rights radio shows and open forums, Philip hopes to reach people of different professions and social backgrounds. “There are so many issues not addressed, women’ rights for instance, that would reach masses if there were broadcast on radio.”

For now, Philip continues his work at Pamoja FM to ensure that human rights education spreads across the whole country. “I want to bring my community to a level of understanding such that they can change the negative perception that human rights activism is an issue of making noise, protesting and demonstrating in public. I want them to know that it is about helping others understand and demand for their human rights.”

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