What you need to know:
- We salute the over 300 journalists who contracted and recovered from Covid-19.
- In the first quarter of the year, the industry lost three journalists to the virus: Robin Njogu, Winnie Mukami and Rueben Githinji.
As the world celebrates ‘Information as a Public Good’ on the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), journalists remain the heroes of the Covid-19 period for risking their lives and health to remain in the frontline in search of information.
The Annual Media Summit/Annual Journalism Excellency Awards organised by the Media Council of Kenya, which this year coincides with the WPFD, is therefore an opportunity to celebrate, honour and reward the professionalism and sacrifices made by these frontline soldiers.
A survey conducted by the Media Council of Kenya and released in December last year revealed that the media was still the most trusted institution in the country, which should serve as an encouragement as the industry battles the adverse effects of Covid-19.
We salute the over 300 journalists who contracted and recovered from Covid-19. In the first quarter of the year, the industry lost three journalists to the virus: Robin Njogu, Winnie Mukami and Rueben Githinji. Statistics shared by media houses indicate that another 1,278 journalists were affected by various cost-cutting measures, including job losses and salary cuts.
A media house in Kericho county had to close shop after all its staff contracted the virus. Journalists in Kilifi and Siaya counties faced the wrath of their professional lives, when neighbours feared interacting with them because they were frontline workers.
In Baringo, a journalist had his camera confiscated for several days because his media house had carried a story linking some death of a family member to Covid-19.
Obviously, the containment measures, including the implementation of the public health rules and regulations, have had an impact on access to information and journalism.
Kenya has been listed at 102 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index 2021, an all-time low in three years and a drop from last year’s position 100. Many journalists fell victim of police brutality during the enforcement of Covid-19 guidelines. Since May last year, the council has documented over 100 cases of violations.
About 50 per cent of these attributed to denial of access (information, physical). Several repressive laws and administrative codes governing the media still exist.
The council will launch a report on the media sector legislative review today, an analysis of at least 20 laws that need to be amended to guarantee a conducive working environment. It is our hope that Parliament will support the industry in the implementation of our proposals.
One of the challenges facing content developers is the use of their products by internet companies without regard to copyright or commensurate compensation. At a time when journalists are losing jobs and correspondents going without pay for months, there is need to address this gap as one way of bridging disparities in compensation and pay for content producers.
Integrity of journalism
Media ownership/commercial/political capture continues to be a big impediment to independent content production.
To cushion the industry from the vagaries of thepandemic, the council rolled out grants that benefited over 500 journalists. The council periodically conducts training on access to information.
Through a partnership with the Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ), journalists in five counties have been trained and a journalists’ handbook on access to information published.
Misinformation compromises the integrity of journalism. The council runs an elaborate media monitoring program that helps identify challenges in accuracy in storytelling.
The monitoring reports enhance its interventions in equipping journalists with tools to identify, verify and fact-check information before publication. In partnership with GIZ Kenya, the council has set up a hotline for reporting of fake news. We encourage media houses to invest in research and fact checking desks as an effective way of responding to misinformation.
MCK will continue to support initiatives by individual content developers and media enterprises in reviewing their business models while leveraging on opportunities provided by technology for development and distribution of content. The council also supports efforts for the setting up of a media support fund.
Mr David Omwoyo is the CEO of the Media Council of Kenya