In Summary
  • It has taken immense courage and, in my view, studious valour for Kenya Editors Guild chairman Linus Kaikai to dare the eye of the storm and speak out the hard truths of how the Jubilee government is embarking on muzzling freedom of the press.
  • There is a rather curious wave of repression sniffing into the country that would be detrimental to our perceived progressive democracy.
  • It is understandable that the Jubilee government, in this standoff with Nasa after the 2017 elections, would feel the presumed knee-jerk reaction to go for whatever space that would seem to antagonise its path to governing.
  • We do stories because we could be the only platform of truth and justice that the people may depend on. We do stories to transform lives and change the world for the better.
  • In Kaikai's passionate appeal to all journalists to carry out their work diligently and report impartially on all matters of public interest, he crowned the definite link to democracy that is currently under serious threat in our country.

The job of the media is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable – Finley Peter Dunne 1867 -1936

First and foremost, let it be clear that gagging the media never won accolades for a tyrannical perception hell bent to govern.

When a country is at a crossroads, where dissenting voices are begging to be heard and where a people are increasingly getting disillusioned by a government decision to act on that descent, then we have a major problem.

Linus Kaikai, an exemplary journalist of repute and the current chairperson of the Kenya Editors Guild, would not, by virtue of his professionalism as we know it, cry wolf just for the sake of it.

It has taken immense courage and, in my view, studious valour for Kaikai to dare the eye of the storm and speak out the hard truths of how the Jubilee government is embarking on muzzling freedom of the press.

NO THREATS TO MEDIA?

So we were not initially privy to the details of this concerning meeting at State House last week where apparently the Jubilee government led by President Uhuru Kenyatta took a jibe at the media, warned them against covering Nasa’s planned “swearing in” of Raila Odinga and threatened to shut down any station that dares to do so.

On Tuesday, January 30, those very same threats indeed came to pass with the shutting down of Citizen TV and NTV and god knows who else will follow!
There was almost instant opposition to Kakai’s statement. The protest, interestingly, came from the Guild’s vice-chairperson, Samuel Maina.

Maina works for the state broadcaster KBC and according to him, “At no point were any threats issued to media houses or any ultimatums given on how we choose to broadcast matters of public interest, or those relating to the current political situation in the country”.

Now that the TV stations have been shut down, could this then refresh Maina’s memory on what might have actually transpired at State House?

IRON-FISTED REACTION
There is a rather curious wave of repression sniffing into the country that would be detrimental to our perceived progressive democracy.

Where a dissenting voice is determined to be heard, there seems to be a choreographed iron-fisted reaction to clamp it down. Where the space for free expression and access to information is guaranteed then it becomes the direct target of those who want to suppress it.

The media in this country, though it continues to be politically demonized, has worked tirelessly to ensure the democratic space is safeguarded and accessible. In Africa today, Kenya is one of the luminary countries with a commendable and vibrant media through whose crusades a trail of social, political and economic anomalies have been unveiled, pursued and resolved.

Casual interactions with media colleagues from the continent and beyond are marked by awe and admiration for how the media in Kenya has braved the tumultuous waters of political interference and media capture and delivered on its mandate.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

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