MAY 3, 2012
The Kenya Editors’ Guild today joins the global media fraternity in marking the World Press Freedom Day.
It is sad that the global celebrations this year are marked in an environment of increasing assaults on Press freedom and growing incidents of physicals attacks and killings of journalists.
The Eastern African region has earned the dubious distinction of a hotspot for journalists, with Somalia and Eritrea listed as some of the most dangerous places in the world for media practitioners.
Just yesterday, May 2, another journalist was killed in Somalia. Mr Farhan ‘James’ Abdulle, who worked with Daljir Radio in Galkayo town, 750 km north of Mogadishu, was attacked by armed men as he was heading home after work in the northern part of the town controlled by Puntland, a semiautonomous state in the north eastern regions of Somalia.
He became the fifth journalist to be killed this year alone in Somalia; a country where the practice of journalism is under the double-threat of government that does not value media freedom, and an insurgency by a Al-Shabaab extremist group that brooks no alternative viewpoints.
The operating environment for a free and independent press has also faced serious threat in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and Sudan.
Kenya Editors’ Guild urges authorities across the wider eastern African region and the Horn of Africa to pay serious attention to Press Freedom.
In this era of globalisation it does NOT benefit any government authority or any rebel grouping to hamper the work of journalists.
In Kenya, we mark World Press Freedom Day this year at a time of heightened political activity with a General Election due to be called in less than one year.
We urge journalists to remain true to their sacred calling and resist any attempts to entice them into partisan reporting.
We urge media houses, the employers, not to lose sight of the fact that their first duty is to free and independent journalism above political, sectional, ethnic or commercial loyalties or influences.
To this end we urge employers to PAY greater attention to the workplace environment in which their journalists operate.
This includes provision of all necessary resources and tools.
To secure competent and professional performance, journalists are entitled to adequate pay, training, provision of necessary equipment and tools, security, and insulation from external pressures.
Finally, KEG is concerned that the process of updating the regulatory and legislative framework to enhance Press freedom in line with the new constitution seems to have slowed down.
The Official Secrets Act is still in place while it should have been repealed a long time ago.
The Freedom of Information Bill seems stuck in abeyance somewhere in between the office of the Attorney-General and Parliament.
Revision of the Media Act and the Communications Act ALSO seems to have fallen hostage to a tug-of-war between the Ministry of Communications &Information and the Media Owners Association.
We would want to emphasise here that the laws and regulations must be revised after an all-inclusive process involving all stakeholders.
KEG will resist any efforts by vested interests who might want to hijack the process for selfish reasons; especially in regard to securing retention of broadcast frequencies and licenses that may have been irregularly acquired in a past regime when corruption and political cronyism were the determinant factors.
We ask the Media Council of Kenya to convene a stakeholders conference to review progress on ongoing legislative and regulatory matters and chart the way forward.
KENYA EDITORS GUILD
May 3, 2012