On May 3, 2023, the world took a moment to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day.
In Kenya, the event was hosted by the media regulator in the country, Media Council of Kenya (MCK) at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi.
Despite Kenya being celebrated for its strong democracy in Africa, comments by major media stakeholders signified an otherwise situation.
A report released by Reporters Without Borders showed that Kenya dropped to position 116 this year, from position 69 in 2022 in the press freedom ranking.
From the Editors Kenya Guild (KEG), the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), the Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) among other sector players, it was evident that the democratic gains in Kenya face a huge threat due to deteriorating state of press freedom.
We are calling on the immediate stop of the violations against the media houses and journalists by state and non-state actorsZubeida Koome
When she took to the podium, the guild President Zubeida Kananu condemned the violations and harassment of journalists that have been experienced in the country.
“We are calling on the immediate stop of the violations against the media houses and journalists by state and non-state actors,” she noted.
Unnecessary Media Censorship
Kananu also expressed her disappointment with the ban of the media from covering Shakahola cult deaths, noting that the media was the whistle-blower on the whole issue.
According to her, the media exposed the failure of well-funded government agencies like the National Intelligence Service and the police who ought to have arrested the matter before it got out of hand.
Her sentiments reiterated constitutional right of the public to information, as well as that of the media to impart information to the public without fear or favor.
KUJ’s Secretary General Erick Oduor called on the media owners to treat journalists with the decorum they deserve.
According to Mr Oduor, media owners have been mistreating journalists with some being hired from text messages, and paid via mobile phone money services.
“We will call media houses who mistreat journalists,” he noted.
He noted with great concern that Kenya is on the spot for the killing of Pakistani journalist Arshad Sherif in October 2022, a case which has not been resolved to date.
According to Mr Oduor, the incident affected Kenya’s press freedom index.
Unending cases of violence against journalists
KCA’s Oloo Janak on his part urged the courts to speed up cases involving journalists that are before them, pointing out a number of cases that are pending before the courts.
According to him, the John Kituyi case of 2015, Bernard Wesonga of 2013, and Francis Nyaruri of 2009 among other cases have not been resolved to date.
To show how this commemoration is important to the media sector, local media organizations and journalists across the country took a moment to join the world in marking the day.
Many of the journalists congregated in various places, shared experiences with colleagues, planted trees, conducted street matches, and published stories about this special day.
The Kenya Correspondents Association through its network of journalists based in all the 47 counties also joined in the commemoration of the day.
In Nyamira County, the journalists opted for a football game between the Gusii Journalists FC against Rigoma FC at the Rigoma stadium to mark the day.
The journalists ended the day with a meeting which was presided over by Nyamira County Assembly Speaker Enock Okero Nyambega and Rigoma MCA Nyambega Nyambega Gisesa
In Bungoma County, journalists organized an event that was graced by area Deputy Governor to petition journalists’ cases to the Governor on the issues affecting the county-based journalists.
World Press Freedom Day is marked every May 3, to commemorate the gains made by the global media industry.
This day is also set aside to educate the public on the role of the media globally with different themes formulated every year. The theme of this year was: Shaping the future of rights; Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights.