Kenya: Mwaura - Case for Stimulus Package to Keep Our Journalism Alive and Kicking

opinion

The number of journalists working in the country and accredited by the Media Council of Kenya this year is 3,249. Some work for foreign media organisations but the overwhelming majority work for the local media, with the Nation Media Group having 379.

These are the people who bring us the news and keep us entertained, educated, informed and empowered to check the excesses of our politicians and public servants.

But hundreds of them have been laid off. Others have had their salaries cut as the media tries to survive in this Covid-19 era that has accelerated the decline of their traditional sources of income -- advertising and circulation.

STIMULUS PACKAGE

There is no business that deserves a stimulus package more than the news business. But there are people who would argue that it is unwise to allow the media to feed at the government trough because that can be used to kill the independence and freedom of the media. Or, as some say, nobody wants to bite the hand that feeds it and so the media would toady to the government.

But the Constitution would take care of that. Article 34 guarantees the freedom and independence of the media. The government is specifically barred from exercising control over or interfering with the dissemination of information by the media.

There is also enough reason in the Constitution to bail out the media because, without journalism that is alive and well, many of the things prescribed in the supreme law would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

These include the right to freedom of expression and freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas, contained in Article 33. These rights can hardly be achieved without the effective operation of the media.

ROBUST MEDIA

Article 11 requires the government to promote all forms of cultural expression through, among other channels, the mass media. This can hardly be achieved if we don't have a robust media.

What is more, Article 232 provides for values and principles of public service, which include high standards of professional ethics, efficient and effective use of resources, accountability, transparency, as well as public involvement in the process of policy making.

None of these things can be achieved without journalism that is alive and kicking.

The author is an independent news ombudsman who handles readers' complaints on editorial matters, including accuracy and journalistic standards.

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