Stop this unwarranted affront to media freedom

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga yesterday held a news conference during which he announced a number of things, including increasing the frequency of protests.

The most unsettling was the threat against a media house. This is not only a threat to the journalists and other news workers in the employ of the particular media house, but potentially all others in the country.

We agree with the Kenya Editors’ Guild, the Kenya Union of Journalists and the Media Council of Kenya, that this is a direct affront to the media’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom.

Harm's way

It matters little what grievances the opposition coalition may have against the media house in question, but the public nature of the pronouncements directly puts a number of journalists in harm’s way.

We recall how, in the previous elections, the ODM leader issued similar threats that led to unprovoked attacks on journalists by his supporters. 

The Azimio coalition has regularly claimed to be a defender of democracy. Indeed, even the demonstrations they staged on Monday were couched as pro-democracy protests.

How then can they, in broad daylight, make pronouncements that attack the very foundations of a democratic state, that is, freedom of expression and that of the media?

The media is an indispensable part of any modern democracy. This is why the 2010 Constitution has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect the freedom of this institution and shield it from reckless political actors and rogue state officers.

It is, therefore, obvious that the media does not enjoy its freedom at the pleasure of Azimio or indeed any other entity.

This freedom was earned through many years of struggle and sacrifice, and cannot be rolled back at the whims of any politician or a group of them.

Journalists have a solemn duty to capture all moments of history, interpret them for present generations and document them for those yet to come.

Anyone standing in the way of such a noble endeavour cannot claim to be a democrat.

We believe that, in the absence of a clear renunciation of these threats, the Azimio leaders should be ready to take full responsibility, should any harm come to any journalists at the hands of the coalition’s supporters.