Kenya: Role of Media Amid Covid-19 Pandemic Put On Scrutiny

School children in South Sudan (file photo).

Editors, media practitioners and academics from across East Africa for the second day yesterday held a consultative forum to discuss the status of the media industry ahead of the May 3 World Press Freedom Day.

They took stock of the 30 years since the Windhoek Declaration was promulgated in 1991, in which the international community affirmed its commitment to freedom of the press.

"More specifically, the Windhoek Declaration stated in the often-quoted Article V that 'the worldwide trend towards democracy and freedom of information and expression is a fundamental contribution to the fulfilment of human aspirations'. This inevitably recognises the place and role of freedom of information and expression in the development of a free and democratic society," reads the statement from the organisers.

Press freedom

During the event, organised alongside the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the players, however, noted that the Eastern African region is replete with numerous challenges that have negatively impacted the place and roles of the media, press freedom and freedom of expression.

Experts in the industry, among them Nation Media Group's Executive Editor and Managing Editor of Daily Nation Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni, also delved into other prominent topics affecting the industry, including the impact of Covid-19 on journalism, gender inclusivity and safeguarding the media through legal policies.

"Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of information for public good, as opposed to misinformation and disinformation - with the media providing credible life-saving information, and breaking down scientific and medical information," Ms Sittoni said.

Other main speakers were Wangethi Mwangi of the Africa Media Initiative, Kenya, Orene Ayaa (Nedia Development Institute, South Sudan) and Emmanuel Mugishi of the Rwanda Media Commission.

"Paywalls are about value-led content. Media houses should be innovative and creative to find ways of generating revenues amidst dwindling advertising revenues," said Nation Media Group's head of development and learning, Mr Churchill Otieno.

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