Kenya: Media Urged to Uphold Professional, Ethical Standards

Kwale — The government has called on the media practitioners to uphold the highest level of ethical and professional standards in their work and shun divisive journalism.

Information, Communications and The Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo underscored the need for the media to stick to the fundamentals tenets of the profession at all times.

CS Owalo asked the journalism fraternity in the country to avoid indulging in anything that divides the society as they go about their work.

He called upon the media owners to continually retrain their staff to promote adherence to the code of conduct and ethical values in the media.

The CS rooted for proficiency in the media profession that adheres to ethics hence reporting accurate, balanced and unbiased information to the members of the public.

“Media freedom comes with responsibility to the general public and the nation and therefore editors as media gatekeepers have a duty to protect the people from sensational, false and salacious footages and other unethical coverage in the press,” said Owalo.

He says the public requires media contents that promote transparency, accountability, good governance and civil liberties and not engaging in trivialities and sensational articles.

The CS said this in a speech read on his behalf by Director of Government Advertising Agency (GAA) Gwaro Ogaro during the 5th annual Kenya Editors’ Guild (KEG) convention in Diani, Kwale County that brought on board industry players in the media sector, both locally and internationally.

The annual convention running under the theme ‘beyond elections: public interest and sustainable newsrooms’ attracted delegates from Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and even key speakers from other parts of the world.

The CS similarly called on the Editors Guild to work on improving the skills and knowledge of journalists and stepping up training.

Owalo noted that Kenya being a growing democracy is striving to ensure the right to access to information is realised and urged journalists to promote democracy through accurate reportage.

The CS said it was the fundamental responsibility of the media to make sure that democracy stands the test of time without any form of compromise, prejudice and hatred in their coverage.

He said the right to access to information guarantees everyone the right to access all information and documents related to the management of public affairs regardless of the status of the concerned person and the purpose for obtaining the required information.

“This will ensure that the media plays their watchdog role independently, as enshrined in the Constitution. This should promote the culture of transparency, openness and accountability among public officials,” said Owalo.

He reckoned that the constitution, through Articles 33, 34 and 35, protects freedom of expression, media freedoms, and access to information by the media and citizens.

“As the Government, we are committed to continuing to review policy and regulatory frameworks to attract and protect investments and operations of the Media,” noted the CS.

Owalo noted that his ministry is concerned about the surge in the laying off of journalists by leading media houses.

He said while the times are undeniably hard, and technology is changing, laying off journalists should not be the first line of intervention. “I intend to have a consultative session with Media owners in the next few days, to review the best way ahead in matters of this kind in the future,” he said.

Owalo said his ministry will continue to work with media stakeholders and Parliament, to formulate progressive legal and policy initiatives to further support the media industry.

The minister underlined that rogue elements in government, and who abuse journalists – or any other persons – should not be mistaken for the work of the government.

“The government will remain vigilant at all times to protect journalists and citizens against rogue elements within it who have given departments such as law enforcement agents a bad name,” he said, noting that the current Kenya Kwanza administration was striving to provide a conducive atmosphere for the media to thrive.

CS Owalo at the same time affirmed that the government will revamp the state broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) with proper infrastructural interventions, to make it blaze the trail, in clear and appropriate communication of the government’s agenda.

He said despite the problems afflicting the public broadcaster, KBC will not collapse.

“We will not allow it even to continue playing second fiddle in the fast-growing media sector. KBC’s unique role to communicate government agenda makes it a very strategic national entity,” he said.

He said the government will shortly roll out fresh initiatives to breathe fresh life into KBC and to allow it to reclaim its rightful place in the fast changing broadcasting industry.

“Apart from revamping and up-scaling the broadcast infrastructure, we intend to give KBC editorial latitude that will enable it to deliver on its mandate without looking over the shoulder,” said Owalo, adding that this will give it an astute competitive edge in the dynamic media landscape.

On his part KEG president Churchill Otieno says a robust media requires the existence of strong institutions including media houses and the various professional associations in the industry.

Otieno said the 2019-2020 national budget introduced tax on advising and that the KEG is of the view that such tax should be exclusively invested in the media to cultivate a robust ecosystem. – Kna

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