Araka Matara is the new Chairman of the Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA).
Mr Matara, a Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) correspondent based in Kisii will try to fit into the shoes of Oloo Janak who has steered the sheep for over a decade.
Matara was handed the powers during the association’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Nairobi on December 7, 2023.
However, the association’s treasurer Barnard Kwalia from North Rift retained his position, as Acting Secretary General and Standard Group’s Western Kenya Bureau Chief John Shilitsa moved to occupy the seat substantively.
Shalom Radio founder Irene Nasimiyu was picked for the Deputy Chairman’s position while Coast region’s Teryanne Mwadzaya took over Assistant Secretary General’s position.
It has been a journey, and I pass the mantle to the next person, but I am still an active member of the association, and I will continue to support the team in whichever capacity the new leadership may deemS fitOloo Janak
The new team will steer the KCA ship for the next three years.
“It has been a journey, and I pass the mantle to the next person, but I am still an active member of the association, and I will continue to support the team in whichever capacity the new leadership deems fit,” said Janak.
The new team will be joined by the Chapter Chairmen of the eight regions; Nairobi, Coast, Upper Eastern, Lower eastern, South Rift, North Rift, Nyanza and Western to constitute the association’s board.
“I am happy to have been accorded this opportunity to move the association to the next step and I will rely on the support of the outgoing Chairman and the entire association membership to keep the fire burning,” said Mr Matara.
Shrinking civic space
The AGM was a culmination of a one day forum that brought together the media and Civil Society Organizations to discuss the emerging threats in the civic space in the country.
During the engagements hosted by KCA, stakeholders decried the shrinking civic space in the country which has seen human rights defenders face more threats than before.
Players in the civic space now need to coalesce around critical issues to spur political and governance transformation which has been slow despite robust policies and lawsPriscillah Nyokabi
Ondrej Simek, the Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Kenya who was the chief guest at the event noted that there was need for continued protection of the civic space so as to guarantee human rights and democracy.
Mr Simek said the EU has been supporting grants to support this initiative, and that there are
“Kenya has made a huge step in development and democracy, and a lot of neighbouring countries are admiring these,” said Simek.
He noted that for continued prosperity, there is need to promote media independence, editorial credibility and editorial responsibility in the media.
“Journalists need to be tough,” he said, adding that civil society must also embrace solution-based approach to people-centred issues.
Harassment of media and rights defenders
Katiba Institute’s Patricia Joseph noted that President William Ruto’s regime has continuously used the law to stifle the civic space through increased attacks on journalists and human rights defenders.
“The attacks on journalists by police, media barred from covering public interest issues and arrest of human rights defenders are on the rise,” she said.
She said thee is need for building synergies between journalists and civil society in a bid to protect the democratic gains the country has achieved.
Her sentiments were echoed by the Chairperson for Centre for Multiparty Democracy Pricsillah Nyokabi who said there is need for reenergised approach to protect the gains in the 2010 Constitution.
“Players in the civic space now need to coalesce around critical issues to spur political and governance transformation which has been slow despite robust policies and laws,” she said.
“This was one of the worst years for civic space in Kenya,” noted Civic Freedom Forum’s (CFF) Winnie Masai, pointing out the cases of government clamp down on the media and the human rights defenders during the recent political agitations, especially during demonstrations against the high cost of living.
“It is time for the media and the CSOs to understand each other so that they can work together in protecting the civic space,” said Janak.