If you are following me on Instagram, you should know that I love taking long walks and street photography has a special place in my heart. One of the main reasons why I chose Nairobi, Kenya for my Christmas Vacation is to explore the city and venture to street photography more. But what happened yesterday made me realize things. I can see you Kylie Jenner or is it Kendall?

We’re on our way from breakfast and I brought along my analog film camera. I saw this interesting building just across our hotel. I took a photo. Just one photo then suddenly three armed military/policemen approached us saying photography in Nairobi is a big criminal offense. It’s an act of terrorism unless we have a permit from the police which we don’t have. They told me I can be imprisoned for as long as 8 years. They asked me to review the pictures I took but failed miserably because newsflash you can’t review the pictures of a film camera unless developed and printed.

They asked us to come with them to the police station but they took us to a dingy alleyway instead. When we reached that place, they almost handcuffed me. They told us that if we want, we can sort it out. The leader talked to my friend and asked for a settlement. His initial asking price is 20000 Ksh almost 200 USD. Luckily, we didn’t bring enough money and bargained until we settled at an amount of 5000 Ksh or almost 50 USD.

I was so shaken after that. We returned to the hotel and I did some digging. Yes, there’s an ordinance about photography in Nairobi. Several photographers were arrested for the past year. Also, I found this tweet from their Governor:

You know what’s disheartening about the incident? The very people who are responsible maintaining peace and order are the same people who abuse it. I don’t care about the money actually but the trauma of being escorted by three armed men is terrible. I couldn’t even take a photo after the incident. I planned of using one roll of film a day. I’m on my third day now of my trip, I only finished one roll.

One take away from this trip is that no matter what year it is, there will be places with backward thinking. Photography as terrorism? If I’m a terrorist, I will not take pictures in public in broad daylight. And I will not use an analog camera with no zoom or whatever. I love Nairobi but this is total bullshit. Remember it’s Kenya not North Korea.

39 thoughts on “Scammed in Nairobi, Kenya: Photographers Beware

  1. Sobra. Do ko na nilabas camera ko. Ngayon na lang ulit ksi andito na kami sa probinsya. Sayang yung plans ko for street photography. 😭

  2. Medyo safe naman na tong area na kinaroroonan ko ngayon. Pero mas gusto ko mga building. Mga tao ganern.

  3. Hahaha yun na nga mas nakakatakot ang mga tao haha lalo na pag hinila ka papunta sa gilid ng mga building 😂😂😂😂 Merry Christmas pala Sir….😂😂😂

  4. Muntik pa akong magisang pumunta dito. Pano na lang kung wala na akong kasama at inubos ang kayamanan ko? Hahahaha. Merry Christmas! Enjoy your vacation!

  5. Yung newsflash haha! Buti di kayo pumunta sa kodak para ipa develop ung film. Tama hindi yung pera.. kundi yung trauma na binigay ng mga kotong pulis na yan.. saksak nila sa lungs nila ang city nila hahaha

  6. It is true they are now trying to prohibit photography since westgate attack, but it seems that the officers are trying to use this reason (as an offense) to get money from tourists. The fact that there is no penal code for this (as far as i know), what happened looks like not only harassment but robbery.

    They prohibit photography to avoid further terrorism attacks. A very shallow reason since there are already tons of pictures in the internet. Now, how can they promote their place as safe and peaceful?

  7. Sorry for what happened to you. That’s the life in Nairobi CBD. Outside town you’ll be okay. No problem at all. Our Police are also not so very friendly and professional. Very sorry.
    Maybe just to help, use your phone to take pictures. You won’t have any problem at all. For me I do that. I’m also a vlogger and my phone is the best camera to use, I do that always. No one will suspect you.
    Don’t ever use a DSLR. Use it outside the city.
    I hope that helps someone next time.

  8. Yeah. Went to Mombasa and took as many pictures as I can. Maybe next time in Nairobi. The thing is, I’m still practicing my film photography that’s why I’m out and about with my film camera.

  9. Totally agree with TheBoyoJosh, our police are yet to be friendly and professional. Apart from towns outside Nairobi, the national parks and reserves are also great for photos..

  10. Hopefully the next time I visit Nairobi, everything is proper. Nairobi is a nice city. But the authorities are ruining its reputation.

  11. I am Kenyan and it is so sad that this still happens. Sorry for that experience.
    The people in authority are making our country look bad yet it is such an awesome place to be

  12. Hahahaha. Buti wala na padevelopan dun. Kundi malalaman nila na dami kong pinicturan the night before. Hahah

  13. I’d definitely recommend avoiding taking pictures of government buildings (or anything that looks like it could be a government building) in other countries, just as a general rule. I’ve been to several different countries where this was illegal and I’ve known people who got in similar trouble (in other places). I think it’s important for Americans to be aware of this because it’s not something we expect since it’s not illegal in the U.S. I love Kenya and I’m sorry this bad experience happened to you while you were there!

  14. Lmao. Sorry for your ordeal. We’ve had a lot of terror problems and since the West gate terror attack, photography is translated to spying. Nairobi has a lot of cool photography places outside the CBD. Also, as a visitor in Nairobi, don’t ask random people for directions, I ask guards or G4S guarding banks, hotels or institutions . Nairobery is a real thing.

  15. Oh wow. Nairobery? Tsk. But good thing google maps is available. Next time I visit, I’ll be more vigilant. Thanks!

  16. I am really sorry this happened to you, i would recommend using a phone while taking photos next time, if there will be a next time. Am sad to say that this still happens, i have had my fair share of them inside the CBD and i am a Kenyan.

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