Why President’s support for Kuria is shocking

President William Ruto’s apparent support for Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria’s vulgar attack on the Nation Media Group (NMG) is shocking but hardly surprising. His remarks have also been echoed by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

Mr Kuria hurled unprintable epithets at NMG in response to an investigation that revealed a scandal in an entity under his docket. 

President Ruto is, like everybody else, entitled to his views and has every right to defend his lieutenants. However, when what seems like an orchestrated hate campaign is being waged against the media for doing their work professionally, this raises eyebrows.

The freedom of the media is not just guaranteed by the Constitution, it is, indeed, one of the cornerstones of our democracy. The media are not just the watchdog of society, whose key role is to monitor the performance of leaders, they have a duty to point out any shortcomings.

We at NMG do not have any issues with being held accountable for what we publish. In fact, we would expect nothing less. The media are not infallible and sometimes get things wrong. But when this happens, the aggrieved parties have avenues for seeking legal redress. The media are guided by the law and a professional code of ethics. When these are flouted, the culprits are held to account.

CS Kuria could have gone to court, taken up the issue with the Media Complaints Commission or sent a formal protest to the management. Media houses have mechanisms through which complaints can be channelled. The NMG, for instance, has the Public Editor, whose job is to hold professional colleagues to scrutiny to ensure that they live up to what is expected of them.

The professional yardstick is a commitment to balanced, free, fair and accurate reporting. The problem with Mr Kuria is using primitive unprintable language that is beneath a person of his status. The President and his deputy have not stated what we may have got wrong or asked for clarification or correction. They are simply engaging in intimidation.

Chapter Six of the Constitution requires leaders to behave with maturity and decorum. Therefore, the President’s apparent endorsement of CS Kuria’s insults is quite unfortunate.