The Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communications and The Digital Economy Eliud Owalo has assured the journalism fraternity of the government’s commitment to defend the freedom of media and other civil liberties.
Owalo said conflicts that may arise between the two will always be managed and transformed for the overall good of the society, as the government will look at the media as partners in governance and not competitors.
He called upon the media to work closely with the government in its vision of making Kenya a digitized society, emphasizing that they have a role to play to leverage on ICT for sustainable development.
“In the case of media related pressures and conflicts, we have the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) which is a strong body that can resolve conflict as intended by the law,” said Owalo.
“Even as we continue to respect these freedoms, we recognize that social conflict and divergence of opinion is part of a health society. Any society without some level of conflict is a dead society,” he said.
The CS said his ministry will put in place the Media Council of Kenya Board and will consult appropriately while setting it up.
He said freedom comes with responsibility, noting that editors have a duty to protect other citizens against abuse through sensational, prurient and salacious falsehoods and other unethical coverage.
Owalo made the remarks while addressing the Kenya Editors Guild and members of the Kenya Media Sector Working Group who had gathered at a Nairobi hotel to commemorate the International Day to End Impunity For Crimes Against Journalists.
He said crimes against journalists come in different guises and are perpetrated by different players of which the assumption tends to be that the government is the perpetrator.
The CS stressed that the government will remain vigilant at all times to protect journalists and citizens against rogue elements within the government who have given departments such as law enforcement agents a bad name.
“The killing of the Pakistani journalist Arshad Mohammed Shariff is being handled by relevant arms of government who include the Ministry of Interior and that of Foreign Affairs. When the information is out it will be disseminated,” he assured.
On self- regulation, Owalo urged the media to guard against internal rogue elements among them media owners and senior journalists who oppress their juniors, as well as those who engage in gender based deviant behaviors against their colleagues.
“Journalists must learn to work together. It is awkward that on a day as important as this, the Kenyan journalism fraternity is pulling in different directions,” said the CS and advised them to get their house in order and speak in one voice.
Speaking at the event, the President of the Kenya Editors Guild Churchill Otieno said the revitalizing and revamping of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and Kenya News Agency by the government who set minimum standards will not only do justice to those working in the spaces but will also change media houses.
He also noted that there is need to create an ecosystem for media houses that ensures critical talent have a sustainable way of achieving their goals and called on the Ministry to look into the policy of advertising which is adversely affecting the private media.
By Bernadette Khaduli