Media Summit: Media crucial contributors to good governance
The annual Media Summit which starts today presents a perfect opportunity for the Fourth Estate and other sectors, including the civil society, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the public in general to reflect on the media’s role and impact in society.
The theme of the conference, Media, Accountability and Good Governance couldn’t have come at a better time. Good governance ensures participation of citizens, strengthened political representation and a free media.
The end result is that the delivery of basic social services to the people and overall effectiveness of the government are enhanced. In all these, the media are central.
But it is only when journalists are free to analyse and investigate the government’s policies and actions that good governance takes hold. If the media are to function in the public interest, governments have to protect the independence of the media and allow various viewpoints to flourish in society.
To ensure transparency and accountability journalists need to access relevant information. Ensuring wider access to information leads to greater citizen participation in governance. This allows for verifiability of information.
Journalists should utilise the Access to Information Act to seek relevant information from government institutions so that citizens are able to access information that would enhance accountability. A knowledgeable citizenry translates to more participation and accountability.
Media should also be in the forefront in promoting the rule of law. Citizens need to understand that the primary protection tool for everyone is the respect for the rule. When the law is twisted, no one is safe because it will create a situation where “some animals are more equal than others”.
It is, therefore, essential that the rule of law is sustained in all situations whether it is about delivery of services or policy making. All efforts by the relevant bodies to safeguard the rule of law should be highlighted and anything contrary should be challenged by media.
Still on the rule of law, there is a debate about whether it is time to review the 2010 Constitution. While there is a school of thought that the immediate focus should be the implementation of the current Constitution, another feels that it is time it is reviewed.
Each side has tried to justify its reasons. Media have a responsibility to break down the information so that citizens are well informed about this debate. Failure to do this would allow politicians to set the agenda in matter that is of great importance to the lives of Kenyans.
Another area that would be of interest for media is corruption. In its watchdog role, the media play a crucial role in the fight against corruption. This could be achieved by either unearthing corruption cases and sustaining the coverage.
But journalists should also drink what they preach. As they demand accountability from others, media practitioners should live by example by adhering to the code of conduct for the practice of journalism. The writer is the communications officer at Katiba Institute