Safety and security of journalists is key to attaining freedom of the Press in Kenya. This is the key message that journalists passed to the government on Monday during celebrations to mark World Press Freedom Day.
Led by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and the Editors Guild the members of the Press in the country asked the government to ensure a conducive environment for them to work in.
“Without safety and security we cannot communicate well to Kenyans,”
MCK Chief Executive Dr. Haron Mwangi stated during a convention that was held at the Nairobi Intercontinental hotel to mark the day.
Just a week ago an Eldoret based journalist John Kituyi was killed by unknown people on his way home. His relatives believe his killing is associated to his work as a journalist. His killing came several weeks after journalists working with Nation Media Group (NMG) and the Royal Media Services (RMS) were attacked in Tana River county while on duty.
“How can journalism thrive when journalists are beaten (and) killed?”
posed Linus Kaikai, the Chairman of the Editors Guild.
“Such primitive beatings cannot be defended,” stated Kakai asking the “government to take stern action” against the offenders.
At the convention was Deputy President William Ruto, Cabinet Secretary in charge of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Dr. Fred Matiang’i, and other key government officials in the ICT sector.
“A free and an independent media benefits the society,”
added Kaikai. He alleged the Jubilee administration has not been friendly to the media.
“We need to see a change on the attitude of hostility to the media from the Jubilee administration,” he said.
Responding to this the DP said Jubilee would work towards correcting the perception.
“We respect the media. We have a responsibility and a duty to do so as a government. If there is a perception that we have acted to the contrary then we will correct it.”
However the DP threw back the same salvo on a negative perception.
“But we also perceive certain media houses are unfriendly to the Jubilee administration. Help us to remove that perception.”
The DP further asked the media to remain true to its calling.
“We are asking for a balanced, fair and objective reporting (but that does not mean) turning the media into a PR (public relations) department for the government,” he added.
The Jubilee administration, arguably, began on a good footing with the media. Immediately President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy Ruto were sworn in, they organised a historic meeting with journalists at State House whence they picked a number of journalists to work with them.
But this relationship soon dwindled with the introduction of security laws among other steps that journalists feel have been aimed at affecting cutting down freedom of expression.