A free Press is a pillar of democracy

Nakuru journalists during a procession to mark the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2019.

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • A free Press is not an end in itself. It is a means by which democracy is secured and upheld.
  • The Kenyan media has made a name for itself in the continent as one of the boldest and most trusted.

In his weekly newsletter, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa did something unusual. He thanked the media for their exemplary work in sensitising the public on Covid-19 and praised them for their undaunted exposes on corruption, all the while on limited budgets.

He rallied South Africans to support the media either by paying their license fees or purchasing a newspaper, while mounting a powerful argument for the power for a free Press. 

“A free Press is not an end in itself. It is a means by which democracy is secured and upheld. During this pandemic, our media has played not just its traditional watchdog role, but exercised its civic duty in supporting the national effort to contain the coronavirus,” said the statement in part. 

Quite extraordinary for an African president to go all out in public praise of the Press, and rallying public support for the media.

However uncommon this is, President Ramaphosa is right. His words and arguments are as relevant to South African media as they are for the Kenyan Press. 

Kenyans, like South Africans, must come out in their numbers to support our media industry, especially the legacy, established news media organisations.

Studies have continually shown that the Kenyan Press is one of the most trusted institutions by the public. The Kenyan media has made a name for itself in the continent as one of the boldest, most trusted media, producing excellent journalism steeped in the notions of objectivity and impartiality. 

At the height of the pandemic, our journalists – rightfully classified as essential workers – left their homes and families every morning to bring us news from the frontlines of the pandemic.

Robust media industry

They risked their lives to deliver brilliant journalism, flooding the darkness with light by exposing corruption scandals such as the #Covid19Millionaires story by NTV. 

They did all this even as advertising revenues plunged. This resilient industry trudged on with lean budgets and even leaner teams, putting their interests aside to remain true to their calling. 

This is why, as a country, we must collectively put aside our previous frustrations with the Kenyan Press and realise the importance of a robust media industry.

As individuals, we must assure the Press of our goodwill.

But that is not enough. We must be ready to pay the price for good journalism because quality journalism does not come cheap. Whether it is in the form of buying a newspaper or in the very near future, paying a subscription fee for your favorite daily, or even a license fee, we must play our part in preserving this industry.

The government must also do its part in promoting public media by drastically increasing funding for our public broadcaster to empower those journalists to fulfill their social contract with the public.

This is a pivotal moment for the Kenyan Press and if you do not support the Press for any other reason, support them because you believe that you deserve the truth.