Information Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru on Tuesday defended the creation of a government advertising agency, noting it was a noble idea meant to assist media houses, not to stifle them.
Mr Mucheru, however, admitted that the government owes media houses huge sums of money for carrying inserts of the MyGov publication, which runs paid advertisements from virtually all State agencies.
"We have delayed in payments; that is true, but this is money that we owe you and we're going to pay. The Government Advertising Agency is not a tool for suppression; far from it," the minister said.
Mr Mucheru was speaking on Tuesday in Nairobi while responding to questions after he gave a keynote address during the second edition of the revived Press Club by Kenya Editors' Guild.
It is a platform where key personalities are called to discuss various issues affecting the media. The first forum was held last month and the keynote speaker was Chief Justice David Maraga.
BIG FOUR AGENDA
Mr Mucheru said he is worried that Kenyan media houses are finding themselves in a tough business environment.
"I look at the balance sheets, I look at the growth of those companies, especially Google, which is now at almost $700 million (Sh70 billion) in valuation," he said.
"I want our media to grow in the same way. I want our journalists to be paid the same amounts that we see globally," he added.
He challenged media houses to find ways of covering the government's Big Four Agenda.
"More than Sh7.5 trillion is going to be spent in the next four years. This is a huge input into our economy. As media, we should be reporting to Kenyans what opportunities they have," he said.
Speakers at the forum highlighted the tough situation the media finds itself in.
Standard Media Group deputy editorial director Kipkoech Tanui said there are government regulations that are placing journalists between a rock and a hard place.
"There has never been a time that we have been under the pressure that we are under today," said Mr Tanui.
Veteran editor Macharia Gaitho said he wishes journalists and the government could find ways of working without being suspicious of each other.
The editors' guild chairman Churchill Otieno said more Press Club forums will be held for the benefit of all.
"We thought it necessary to revive this Press Club to create a platform for the media fraternity to have conversations with various stakeholders," he told the gathering.
Media Council of Kenya chief executive David Omwoyo said winners of the Annual Journalism Excellence Awards will be announced on August 3.