Politics

Taking Stock: Is the media really free?

blog postTuesday 30th January was the day of reckoning for Kenya. For NASA supporters it was a day for justice and more so electoral justice to be effected and the first step taken to do this. It was one of the biggest acts of defiance according to the government which in turn effected a shutdown of media stations which serves the topic of this blog post.

The facts

On Monday morning the chair of the Editors Guild, Linus Kaikai put out a statement which played down a meeting attended by top media editors and bosses in the country. The meeting which was attended by Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Joe Mucheru, Dr. Fred Matiang’i ad a different tone from the one that Uhuru Kenyatta had before he got his second term. The editors and media bosses were threatened with a shutdown and revoking of licenses if they happened to broadcast the “swearing in” of Raila Odinga as the People’s President.

Though the statement was downplayed by the Vice Chair of the Guild as he claimed the letter was misunderstood. He even went ahead to mention the event as a “consultative meeting”.

The media however did not carry out the directive ordered by the President and went ahead to cover the event fully. At around 11 NTV and Citizen went off air and shortly an hour later KTN News was taken off air leaving only K24 and KBC.

It was one of the worst moments for Kenya’s democracy with a lot of issues coming into play. Is the Kenyan media the best? Do they produce the best coverage? Do they play the role of whistle blower and check on government and other institutions?

Independence

The question of the independence of the media is one that still remains an arguable one. Media Critic Kenya recently published election files where we called the Kenyan media biased and unbalanced for the news that they were putting out during the election.

However we also sat back to reflect on the fact that government through subtle ways has also tried its best to muzzle the media and only put out “clean stories”. This has made it very impossible for the media to make sure that they have worked on the stories that they cover more political stories.

Media in balance has been challenged a lot and has been raised as an issue. Professionalism has also been another. Some of the channels have been having half baked panels, half baked stories and have raised a lot of issues.

Stations though back on air and some not need to now make sure that their stories have been covered in the right way and a very high degree of professionalism has been done in order to avoid situations where the public also gets wary of our political partisanship and end up creating hash tags like boycott KTN which was trending last year because of its “alleged” relations with Jubilee and siding with it.

Though some are not back on air there is still others which need to be done. They need to make sure they have continued with the fearless spirit they have had and the government to make sure they have returned Citizen and Inooro TV back on air.

 

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