5 May 2014

Kenya: Media Crackdown Not Yet Necessary


ON Friday, World Press Freedom Day, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Information Secretary Fred Matiangi warned that press freedom is not absolute.

Thankfully Uhuru reiterated Jubilee's commitment to press freedom but it was worrying that he warned that the state will step in when the media fail in their duties.

Legal mechanisms exist for aggrieved persons to seek redress if a story offends them. They can seek damages by suing for libel in the High Court, or they can pursue an apology and a correction. There is no need for the state to get involved when these channels exist.

Even the stories they cited as objectionable were not that bad.

For instance, Matiangi referred to the Standard reporting the cost of the Nanyuki Cabinet retreat as Sh100 million. It may have been much less, perhaps Sh50 million, but the fundamental point was that government was breaking its own austerity rules that public officials should not go to private hotels for seminars.

It would have been better if they had cited stories of ordinary Kenyans being unfairly treated, rather than government being unfairly criticised.

Of course the media can do better, but the situation is not so critical as to merit a crackdown by the state.

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