Public support for media bill on the rise

As part of Kenya’s media fraternity, the Nairobi Chronicle is opposed to the harsh terms of the Communications Bill 2008. To this effect, we have published several articles showing why government attempts at controlling the media are bad for democracy.

However, as a responsible media outlet, we owe it to the world to say the truth about what Kenyans really think about plans to regulate the media.

From the feedback we’ve obtained since Parliament passed the Kenya Communications Bill 2008 last week, we can roughly estimate that half of Kenyans are seriously considering the positive aspects of the proposed law.

We are sure that other media outlets in Kenya have received similar sentiments from the people. While condemning the intended measures by the government to reign the press, media professionals should also conduct internal evaluation to see why Kenyans are getting fed up with the industry.

Here’s a sample from Diana Mwangi, one of our readers. We publish this letter because it is a reasonable representation of most opinions we’ve received so far.

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Dear Sir / Madam,

The media in Kenya needs control for the following reasons:

1. The 2007 Election and the media:

You may know the unfortunate events and violence that took place in January 2008 after the disputed elections. Many radio stations carried content that not only heightened tribal tension, but also stoked the fires of ethnic hatred and violence. Simply put, the media failed in its duties, and when this happens, the media should be controlled.

Also, last year, many of the current MPs paid bribes to the media to get positive coverage during the campaigns. The MPs know this and the media know it. But they do not have the integrity to own up to Kenyans. So the MPs have looked at a way of fixing the media.

2. Content:

The content that Kenyan radio stations broadcast on air cannot be defended. Many of our radio presenters are not professional journalists, but comedians and DJs. The bulk of them hardly take time to engage in research. That’s why they bring a lot of trash in the air. What Kenyan media means by freedom is: freedom to insult our leaders, elders, to engage in ethnic caricatures, to carry half-baked stories, gossip, lewd and sensual stories, half-naked pictures of local “celebrities” and to carry skewed “opinion polls.”

This is one time the country needs direction on creation of jobs, food security, stability, youth responsibility and whatever will make Kenya a competitive country.

3. Misleading:

Media is a business and serves the interests of business and NOT of common Kenyans. The Kenyan media is misleading Kenyans that this issue of the Media Bill is one against the people of Kenya.

4. Media owners:

The government should not just control the content but the salaries of media workers, many of whom are underpaid. Media owners do not observe the ethics they criticise the GK for. They underpay journalists and the latter resort to picking bribes to publish and kill stories. If media owners are so angry with the new law, why don’t they go to protest in the streets instead of leaving the lowly paid staff to face police tear gas?

5: Media agenda:

It’s unfortunate that the Kenyan media pursues their own agenda at the expense of the truth. Two newspapers will cover the same event, yet report differently. Why? If you send to the media a letter that contradicts their partisan agenda, it will not be published. Even this debate on media freedom is not objective. The media only carry stories and views of people critical to the government, and not to the media. Is this honesty?

Conclusion

The government should control the Kenyan media, including specifying qualifications for one to become a journalist. It should stipulate the working conditions and salaries of journalists. This way, we will be on our way to achieving a mature media capable of articulating the aspirations of our people…
Anyone listening?

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The Nairobi Chronicle invites readers’ opinions regarding current affairs in society, politics and economics. Please write to nairobichronicle@live.com
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