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Quacks Journalists on radar,MCK

Quacks masquerading as journalists will soon have nowhere to hide if a proposal by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) to rope in county governments to weed out such individuals’ sails through.

North, Eastern, and Central MCK Regional Coordinator Jackson Karanja says discussions between the Council and Governors are at an advanced stage in coming up with stringent measures that will ensure only accredited journalists are allowed to cover government functions.

In the proposed sweeping changes, which may finally address the menace posed by quacks who infiltrate important public functions and even end up misreporting facts, journalists will now have their accreditation cards scanned at a common desk before they can be allowed to cover any such functions.

North, Eastern and Central, Media Council Regional Coordinator Jackson Karanja, when he visited Nyeri County Information Office. The Council is planning to employ digitized personal accreditation cards embossed with a Quick Response (QR) code, to weed out quack journalists from the once revered profession. Photo by Wangari Mwangi.

Karanja says unlike previous accreditation cards that lacked tamper-proof security features, the Council is now issuing cards with special bar codes embossed with an individual’s vital details and a unique number.

“The previous accreditation cards did not have a QR (Quick Response) code, and therefore, anyone could come up with one. So what we are doing as an institution to mitigate this challenge is to have journalists who have this card (with a QR code) access County Government and County Assembly functions. It’s something we are doing and that is ongoing, and we want to start at the very basic level.

Only journalists that have an accreditation card that can be scanned and shows a journalist belongs to a recognized media house will be allowed access to government information,” said Karanja during a courtesy call at the Nyeri County Information Offices.

The Official further said the Council had also received complaints of rogue journalists storming public functions, while under the influence of alcohol and conducting themselves in an unbecoming manner, before the full glare of cameras, but added that they are in the process of conducting trainings for media practitioners on the need to uphold the tenets and ethics of their professionalism as espoused in the Code of Conduct.

“We are telling accredited journalists to be professionals and conduct themselves with decorum. Be different from quacks who masquerade as journalists. Cases of journalists coming to functions drunk portray a bad image for the profession,” he added.

The Official similarly said the Council was also partnering with the Communication Authority (CA) in a bid to inject professional standards of reporting by media houses and ensure those responsible for managing such entities are people who have undergone proper training in matters of reporting.

Karanja noted that the liberation of the airwaves in the year 2000 had opened floodgates in the media industry with an entry of radio, TV, and print media outlets, which ended up creating an avenue where professionalism and integrity were sacrificed at the altar of pursuing bipartisan interests.

“We are approaching the Media Owners Association to address the matter of professionalism, which also touches on welfare matters. We shall involve the Communication Authority in ensuring that anyone working in a media house, is an individual who is accredited to do the job. That way it will be easier than allowing someone to open a media station and then going to check out whether those working there are accredited,” he stated.

Any individual intending to work as a journalist in Kenya must first get clearance from MCK before he can be cleared to operate, pursuant to Sections 4, 6(h), 23(c), and 46 of the Media Council Act No. 46 of 2013.

Among the things required before such clearance are professional certificates—either a degree or diploma in communication from a recognized training institution.

Similarly, one must produce a proof of work done either in print or broadcast, together with a reference letter from the media house or organization that publishes such work.

By Samuel Maina

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