Pay scribes well to promote integrity, media owners told

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021 00:00 |
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi with Broadcasting and Telecommunications PS Esther Koimett and Media Council of Kenya chair Maina Muiruri after launching the Media Sector Legislative Review report during celebrations to mark World Press Freedom Day in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/Njenga Kungu

Calls to give reasonable pay to journalists took centre stage yesterday as Kenya joined other nations to mark the World Press Freedom day.

Speaking during celebrations to mark World Press Freedom Day organised by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi urged media owners to ensure their reporters have pay that will commensurate with their work if they want them to uphold integrity.

“For this conversation to make sense, today is my day to ask the media owners in this country to pay our children — their reporters and news crew—  very well. They deserve it,” Muturi said.

Muturi added: “Pay them well first and then demand integrity, otherwise, we risk making them captives of government and news sources.”

 The Speaker brought into limelight what journalists go through in their daily work in particular referring to the recent exposé done by Citizen television journalist Purity Mwambia. “I recently watched Purity Mwambia’s incisive documentary on Citizen TV and I was both shocked and worried for her. The risks involved, but also for the courage to go for the story. But in the end, how much do these people take home?” he asked.

Legal and ethical

In his speech, the Speaker further revealed that corruption had infiltrated both the media as a profession and Parliament.

“We continue to fix the loopholes to strengthen the integrity of our legislative processes. However, time has come for us to address corruption in the media. Not just journalists, who take bribes to look the other way, but also the quid pro quo between media enterprises and government institutions,” added Muturi.

He cited an instance in which a reporter was sent to his home county to unearth a corrupt dealing in a health facility.

Muturi noted that the journalist was not provided with any transport allowance or facilitation fee but the media house still expected him to maintain journalistic integrity.

“Let us be serious and honest with ourselves. Pay these reporters well and then demand integrity. Media houses need to adjust to modern business models.

Muturi also urged journalists and editors to use all the legal and ethical means to obtain information held by the government and about the government.

“I know some of the journalists and editors do not have great things to say about the institution of Parliament.

But I believe that this is due to a lack of information about what we have done to make access to public legislative information efficient,” Muturi said and asked scribes to hold all civil servants accountable on behalf of the people.

Parliamentary ICT Committee  chair William Kipsang said through collaboration with other stakeholders, they have been able to enact laws that protect freedom and also help scribes in their daily work. He cited Media Council Act and Access to information act.

“ We have been working closely with media stakeholders and I am happy to note that we have been able to make some meaningful progress.

Today, I commit that all archaic laws that are not friendly to the media will be amended,” he said.

Principal Secretary ICT Esther Koimett promised that the government will also be setting aside funds to upscale media development.

Inform the public

“The government is committed to invest in the media development, through standard procedures in the industry to ensure goodwill.

We wish to see electronic media provide free public announcement to its people to educate and inform the public,” she said.

Though the government has continued to uphold freedom of expression, MCK chairperson Maina Muiruri said the country needs to have a comprehensive media policy.

“The council has jointly with stakeholders engaged with the Ministry of ICT, National Assembly and other stakeholders  on the need to have several legal and policy reviews to improve the working environment for the media,” he said.

However,  he said Kenya still lags behind as the country had moved two steps behind in global ranking in terms of access to information.

Kenya was ranked 102, a poor standing for a country with good legislation on freedom of speech, freedom of the media and access to information under Section 33, 34 and 35 of the Constitution.

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