Foreign correspondents covering East Africa say a 400 percent increase in Kenyan work permit fees for foreign workers would deter press coverage and could limit press freedom, writes Eric Nyakagwa.

The Foreign Correspondents' Association (FCA) of East Africa said in a statement issued in Nairobi that as of this year, the price of a regular two-year work permit shot up from KShs 50,000 to Kshs 200,000 (from
US$730 to almost US$3000). It said this could hamper the work of
foreign correspondents in the region.

Due to Kenya’s stability in an otherwise volatile region and being the communication hub in East Africa and the Great Lakes region, Nairobi acts as a hub for international journalists.

The FCA East Africa, which represents the interests of some 200 journalists, said it strongly believes that an increase of this size could lead to many moving elsewhere.

Furthermore, the statement said, many FCA members are freelance journalists who cannot rely on an employer to pay for their work permits and might be forced out of the country on these discriminatory grounds.

“FCA members have a right to know how the Kshs 200,000 is being used and broken down and why it is so crucial they be charged that much,” it said.

The organisation said letters to Immigration Department protesting long delays between renewals of work permits have not been answered.

The statement was signed by FCA chairperson Dr Ulrike Koltermann, Chris Tomlinson (Associated Press),Adam Mynott (British Broadcasting Corporation), Alisha Ryu (Voice of America), Steve Bloomfield (The Independent) Stephanie Braquehais (Radio France International), Tia Goldenberg (German News Agency) and Betty Caplan (freelancer).