Openness, transparency and accountability in government will not materialise unless the government engages in dialogue with the media, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
The President was speaking at a media breakfast hosted today at State House, Nairobi. He said the meeting with journalists, editors and other media practitioners was part of the Jubilee government's intention to fulfill pledges made on the campaign trail that Jubilee will create an open, transparent and accountable government.
President Uhuru said the government has no intention of controlling the media adding that the relationship between media practitioners and government officials "need not be adversarial."
He said the government aims to partner with the media as it also serves the essential role of advancing the cause of good governance.
The President said the media occupies a special place where it can guide debate for the entire country. He urged media practitioners to guide debate towards issues that can move the country forward.
He further appealed to the media to partner with government to communicate to citizens about their role in building the country. The President said the media should curb the dissemination of negative information including hate speech on social media and vulgar language on radio.
The President also announced changes in the Presidential Press Service. He announced that Isaiah Kaberia who has headed the docket for 10 years would be leaving the service. He said Kaberia has been appointed Kenya's High Commissioner to Australia. Manoah Esipisu is now the head of PPS.
While fielding questions from journalists Uhuru also defended the laptop project stating that there is a need to look at the project "holistically"
"Laptops is not just handing out a gadget, it is to prepare our children for the challenges of a technological society" President Uhuru said.
The President also said the issue of his and the Deputy President's cases at the International Criminal Court have not guided foreign policy. He said his discussions with other countries have purely been based on developmental issues that will build the nation.
He further stated that the funding for the project will not be diverted towards paying the salaries of teachers who are currently on a countrywide strike. "We will borrow money to invest in the future of our children and in building the education infrastructure, not to pay salaries."
Deputy President William Ruto who also addressed the gathering said the laptop project is not a "stunt" stating that the it is part of the government's policy to digitize Standard one and two.
He said making digital material to students will make it cheaper for parents and teachers to access information and sections of the syllabus that are not widely available in print.
He further stated that the government has rolled out plans to digitize the operations at the port of Mombasa as well as land transactions and revenue collection.
The Deputy President said that he and the President are running a transparent government and will make as much information as it can available to the media.
He said the government needs the media "to tell our story" stating that "we ask the story of the Jubilee must get out and for it to get out information must get out in sufficient detail so that we can take the country forward."
He stated that the media should not fear engaging the President or the government affirming that the government has no intention of compromising the media.
The chairman of the Kenya's Editor's Guild, Macharia Gaitho said "exploring areas of collaboration does not amount to getting into bed with government" stating that the media will partner with government on the reform agenda.
Gaitho however expressed dissatisfaction with drafts of the media bill and the communication bill, stating that they do not reflect the intention of stakeholders including editors who contributed to the drafting of the bills. He said the communication commission of Kenya should limit itself to governing the airwaves and not broadcast content.
Gaitho also called on the government to be more open stating that there is "nothing more frustrating than a culture of secrecy." He stated that openness will benefit the wider society. He said the media will continue to scrutinize the government without fear or favour stating that practitioners take their watchdog role seriously as this is what defines the media.