Support media to deliver on their role: Press Freedom

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 00:00 |
Media. Photo/Courtesy

Hassan Marjan, a journalist at a Nairobi-based community radio, was yesterday murdered as he headed home from work. His death came barely a day after World Press Freedom Day. That he died on such a day is cruel.  

Even as the police investigate circumstances under which Marjan died, his death serves to highlight the risks journalists, especially during the coronavirus crisis, face. 

Ironically, the measures, especially the dusk-to-dawn curfew, announced by the government to curb spread of the virus, have seen an alarming spike in crime.

Indeed, the pandemic has come at a great cost to journalists most of whom have been forced to take painful pay cuts. 

Granted, media houses are struggling to adjust to reduced revenues, especially advertising ,which is the lifeline of media businesses.

It is a delicate balancing act between protecting jobs and keeping the businesses afloat.

Journalists are playing a key role in dissemination of critical information on the anti-corona campaign that has disrupted Kenyan lives in a manner and scale unprecedented.

This can only be possible in an environment that encourages independent and objective journalism, driven by integrity, truth and public interest. 

On Press freedom, Kenya was ranked position 103 out of 180 countries. It dropped three positions from 100 in 2019, but despite a steady decline in media freedoms, Kenya, which is classified ‘orange’, has long been viewed the region’s best country to practice journalism.

“Journalism without fear or favour,” is the theme of this year’s Press Freedom Day.

Indeed, the Kenyan media has distinguished itself as a strong agitator for accountability in leadership and the fight for democracy, human rights and the  rule of law.

It has also been steadfast in the fight against corruption, State impunity and exposure of moral decadence in various facets of society.

But even as the media soldiers on, there are legitimate existential threats, especially touching on revenues. And here, both the national and county governments are partly to blame. 

Besides passing regulations that seem to inhibit press freedom, they owe media houses millions of shillings in advertising revenue.

As we continue to press for increased media freedom, we ask State agencies to clear pending bills to media businesses to enable them continue playing their oversight responsibility without fear or favour.

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