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Government Reaffirms Commitment on Media Freedom

The government has assured the media fraternity that it will continue to guarantee media freedom in the country as enshrined in the constitution.

Broadcasting and Telecommunications Principal Secretary (PS) Ms Fatuma Hirsi has  said article 34 and 35 of the constitution gives the media special protection in order to enjoy freedom and independence with the constitution stating that the state shall not exercise control over or interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or distribution of publications.

The assurance by the PS comes after the National Assembly summoned two “People Daily “reporters over an article they wrote depicting Parliament as a bribery den.

“I want to affirm the government’s commitment to exercise these freedoms as it recognises the critical role of the media in steering the country’s social political and economic development.

The government recognises there is need for media development to be integrated in the Big4 agenda,” said Hirsi.

The PS said that the media wields immense power and influence that cannot be taken for granted, insisting that in exercise of this power there should be safeguards in which it operates adding that it is also the duty of the media to exercise responsible journalism in the process of providing information to the public.

“The media should represent issues and facts in a manner that creates positive perception about the state of affairs of our country. Media should not be used as a tool to encourage tribalism and create a polarised society,” said Hirsi.

“But that should not mean that the media should turn a blind eye to bad governance,” she explained.

She added that some journalist are unprofessional in their reporting as they are deficient in facts, are biased and lack objectivity leading to an increase in defamation cases giving a lot of work to the complaints committee which is a concern for government.

She advised that parliament and anyone who has complaints about the media to direct them to the complaints committee.

The PS said that the government wants to partner with the media in enlightening the public about the Big Four agenda saying that this ambitious targets cannot be achieved without the support from the media who are key in educating the citizens and corporates on how the projects will impact.

“The government plans to create 1.3 million manufacturing jobs, attain 100 percent universal health cover for all Kenyans by 2022; additionally 500, 000 affordable houses will be constructed and technology will be deployed to enhance food production and enhance the whole production chain from farm to market and people need to be made aware of these,” explained Hirsi.

Speaking during the launch of the media council of Kenya strategic plan (2018-2024) at a Nairobi hotel on Thursday, Hirsi said that the ministry is committed to assist the council in the implementation of their plans which highlights the global, regional and national challenges that face Kenya’s media spectrum including freedom of speech, low levels of media development, slow economic growth, terrorism, insecurity and unpredictable weather patterns.

“Looking at the history of media in Kenya we appreciate the big role it played in the growth of democracy, rule of law and good governance. Currently there are 60 TV stations and more than 170 FM stations and numerous other magazines and newspapers distributed across the country which demonstrates the vibrancy of our media which is second to none in Sub-Sahara Africa,” she said.

Hirsi encouraged the media to support the government by provoking debate aimed at building consensus on the big4 and how it will impact the people on their day to day life.

By Joseph Ng’ang’a

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