THE STATESMAN OPINION: Kenya Press Freedom - The State Of The Industry Is Strong!
On our kicker tonight, the World Press Freedom Day was marked on Wednesday and I take this moment to pay tribute to my colleagues in the Kenyan media industry - from those who preceded us, those we serve with today and the young cubs that continue joining this thrilling industry.
As we commemorated the World Press Freedom Day with this beautiful mix of industry colleagues, I couldn’t help reflecting on the largely unsung journey of the Kenyan media. For my entire 26 years in the media, I have nothing but absolute pride in industry whose growth I have had the privilege of witnessing and experiencing. From the frenzied Standard newspapers newsroom at Townhouse, the airy Kenya Times offices at KICC, the feverish corridors of the KBC broadcasting house and the drab information offices at Gill House and on to yesterday’s well-attended Press Freedom Day commemoration, the Kenyan media story is a tale of sheer resilience at both the individual and collective level.
Though the reviews on the state of press freedom in the country remain well short of the glory, it is the resilience and consistent pursuit of growth and survival that continues to underscore the story of the Kenyan media industry. Times have been testing for the industry especially in recent months. Pressure on both the commercial and editorial fronts have tested media houses in a way only historical happenings have tested institutions. Yet the collective spirit remains strong that just like before the Kenyan media will rise from its own ashes.
On the journalistic front, old challenges remain alive. Threats to journalists, some of it physical threats continue to attend the practice of the trade. Out of the recent demonstrations, several journalists are nursing wounds of deliberate and targeted physical attacks. That image of a police officer firing a teargas canister into a vehicle carrying journalists will forever remain the ugly signature poster illustrating the acrimonious environment journalists operate in.
But we celebrate the resilience of the industry; resilience informed by the increasing discovery that our collective survival depends on solidarity across media houses. We also celebrate the emergence of strong voices underpinned by the growth of organized professional organizations such as the Kenya Editors Guild (KEG), the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) and the Kenya Correspondents Association among others. Solidarity is good, but organized and structured solidarity has proved even better for the Kenyan media.
Other than collective survival, the unsung Kenyan media industry has also proved great awareness of its collective purpose. Across the last three elections, the Kenyan media, of its own volition and at its own cost, has successfully staged pre-election televised presidential debates. On selected days in 2013, 2017 and 2022, millions of Kenyans got glued to their television sets to follow the joint media presidential debates aired across all television and radio stations across the country. The culture of presidential debates will definitely stand out as one of the commendable joint endeavours of the resilient Kenyan media.
But something else worthy of tribute stands out – the constant stream of talent the Kenyan media continues to produce. From the array of presidential debate moderators to the endless supply of quality Kenyan journalists to international media networks, I dare peep through that disgraceful burst of that hateful policeman’s teargas canister and proclaim; the state of the industry is strong.
Fellow journalists, Happy World Press Freedom Day!