The Chairman of the Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) Mr William Oloo Janak asked media houses to pay well their correspondents in order to make them write well balanced stories.
Speaking in Migori town during the World Press Day, Mr Oloo said that correspondents in the field were suffering because of the poor pay forcing others to write skewed copies in favour of those facilitating their welfare.
“Journalists have families and other amenities to cater for and if paid poorly they will look for other unethical ways of surviving including producing stories that lean on friendly sources who oil their pens,” stated Oloo and stressing that, “at the end of the day these journalists need to pay rent and put food on the table for their families.”
The KCA Chair regretted that corruption has infiltrated into the journalism profession in the recent years because the media houses were doing little in taking care of their reporters despite the sacrifices they make in the fields while chasing for good news stories that make their firms to remain afloat in business.
Oloo said it is painful that in this 21st century, majority of correspondents get paid by the story they write making it difficult for them to survive on what they earn at the end of each month.
“In such hard situation, many of our correspondent members would be forced to take bribes to kill a story or twists crucial facts of the copy to suit the interest of the bribing news source,” he explained.
Oloo noted that the majority of journalists who join media associations like KCA and Kenya Union of Journalist (KUJ) come with expectation that the association will solve all their problems.
He revealed that KUJ and KCA try their best to address issues of pay and rights of journalists but emphasized that the media industry in Kenya is run by powerful business individuals and politicians who have powerful connections making it difficult to address their concerns.
These media house largely focus on making profits forgetting that journalists also play a major role in the company’s profit making.
“In 2019, KCA helped quite a number of journalists to get their pay,” said Oloo, citing a case where a journalist had gone for a whole year without pay before KCA assisted the journalist to get a lawyer who took the media house to court, won the case and the reporter got fully paid.
Oloo reiterated that KCA and KUJ assist journalists well and it was necessary that all reporters should join the two bodies.
“We are dealing with huge and powerful media houses that are so well connected and getting reporters complaints addressed sometimes becomes quite difficult,” added Oloo.
He said that KCA, KUJ, Kenya Editors Guild and Media Council of Kenya (MCK) are not as powerful as other unions like Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) who can fight for the rights of their workers because of their numbers and resources.
The chair however, cautioned journalists not to leave associations just because their grievances were not addressed. The biggest challenge according to Oloo on issues of pay is that media houses always ask them which association or union is the aggrieved journalist from. It therefore becomes difficult to argue the case if the person is not in any of the professional body.
Oloo observed that the only way to articulate and tackle the issues of pay is if the 47 county media associations like Migori Journalist Association (MJA) come together and join hands with the likes of KUJ, KCA, Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and Kenya Editor Guild to form a strong union.
Oloo led the Migori Journalist Association and other media state holders to a one-minute silence to pay respect to a fallen hero writer and veterinary Journalist, Mr Philip Ochieng. The writer will be buried on May the 14th in Migori County.
By Geoffrey Makokha and George Agimba