Tuesday, December 16, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Atlanta, Georgia
December 15, 2008

Once more it is the season for the regime in Kenya to have another street fight with its perennial lover; the media fraternity. It may even be safe to say that this bout of violent attack on the media from time to time is what sustains this marriage. The regime in power seems to cherish brutalizing its spouse from time to time to keep her in line!

If you look at the behavior of the media industry in Kenya, especially the management of big media in relation to political leaders, it will be difficult to see the difference. In fact they have more in common than what sets them apart.

This week, we have been treated to a rare spectacle where for the first time a female station broadcaster was on the front line agitating for press freedom. Caroline Mutoko together with her colleagues were arrested for standing up to the regime on a range of issues that included runway poverty, MPs’ refusal to pay taxes and most painfully the obnoxious Media Bill that parliament recently passed, authorizing the Internal Security Minister to invade media houses and dismember broadcast equipment should he deem the action to be in the interest of national security!

The relationship between the media and all regimes in Kenya can easily be compared to that between a hen and a fox.

My parents used to tell me that whenever I got into trouble; part of it was because I went looking for it. And the story of the hen and the fox came in handy to drive the point home. They would remind me that should the hen run home from the thickets with the fox in hot pursuit; first chase the fox away but after words, admonish the hen for straying into the jungle in the first place! Remind the hen that any time it ventures from the confines of the compound, it is looking for trouble and one day it may not escape the fangs of the fox!

A few years ago when the media fraternity went to town with lips sealed in protest against the same Media Bill under Mutahi Kagwe, we praised them for finally standing up for their rights. But one thing I warned them against was to be complacent once they won the battle. I told them that if they went to sleep, that bill would come up again; not in the next month or year. It would probably be brought back by the very politicians that were pretending to love press freedom more than their spouses.

Isn’t it ironical that soon after the Nation and Standard were raided in the dead of the night; when elections came, the same media houses were at the frontline championing the reelection of some of the very officials who were responsible for their attacks? Isn’t it strange that this time round as Nyambane of Nation Media Group and Caroline Mutoko and other journalists were being rounded up for protesting against the Media Bill, seven media managers were being feted by the State?
I may be wrong, but in more civilized societies, some of these medals would have been rejected by the recipients if for nothing else but to protest against continued government brutality against the media.

The history of government brutality is long and agonizing. Since the days of Jomo Kenyatta to this day, regime brutality against the media has been consistent to a fault. If anything, the reason some obnoxious clauses were included in the Bill was simply to legalize the brutality and repression that has always been there.

More telling also is that President Kibaki’s regime is not the first to have given personalities these national honors. Daniel arap Moi honored all those journalists that had served him well. Some of those journalists that Moi honored were not the best of the best by anybody’s standards; but they served him well.

If the truth be said; no regime on earth can reward anybody with national honors on the basis of professionalism and excellence alone. The individual must have offered exemplary service in furthering the cause of that regime.

In the case of this year’s awards, Kenyans know which media house went out flat to support which party during the 2007 elections. That was the reason a group of managers and not practicing journalists found their way to the top of the honors list. Unfortunately, the awards coincided with another violent attack on the industry!