The Kenyan media landscape is currently facing significant challenges, both in terms of structural arrangements and professionalism.
This can be observed from the coverage of the electoral processes of, and the 2017 General Elections where, in most cases, the media became a political tool serving political interests as opposed to serving the public good. During the electoral period, surrogate party diehards and activists were seen in newsrooms pushing divisive political agenda, out rightly disregarding professional ethics of fairness, independence and integrity. Part of this practice has continued unabated post elections. Politicians have made sure the media system is at their beck and call thus seemingly reducing news to a commodity for the highest bidder.
In addition to the questions on the credibility of the media during the process, issues are being raised on the media’s adherence to the basic tenets of journalism including prioritising issues of public interest during the electoral processes. Further, the media is currently faced with internal challenges preventing it from fulfilling its civic duties during elections.
Moreover, there is growing tension between the media and the government, which threatens press freedom and access to information.
Given these contestations, public interest seems to have been crowded out, and the voice of the rank and file journalists, those with authentic interest in the wellbeing of journalism profession and the crucial role it plays in society, is subsumed in the din of corporate and governmental egotisms.
As such, the media fraternity is seemingly pulling apart, with journalist associations and unions caught in the middle making them more vulnerable. The Kenya Editors Guild and the Media Owners Association worry too much about their balance sheets and rarely support journalists and or the creation of structures that enhance media professionalism, accountability and welfare. There is thus little solidarity amongst journalists to foster joint efforts to safeguard press freedom.
Resulting from this is a frenzy to control the media, which is seemingly taking the upper hand in the process, as voices for those demanding for regulation (especially self-regulation) seems to be getting lost. In fact, it’s becoming fashionable when people, especially those in Government or public agencies bash the media or call for expanded laws to reign on the media thus reduce space for independent and free media.
That media must work towards creating solidarity and a common agenda for the media fraternity in the country is not in question. The MCK is convinced that divisions in the sector need to be reduced and a conducive environment created for the media to play its role in national development unhindered.
The path we are taking of forcing entities to control the media or adding more laws to regulate must be rethought and strategic decisions informed by research and experience undertaken.