Kibaki blames media for unpopularity

President Mwai Kibaki has blamed Kenya’s media for massive discontent brewing against his government.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka also rapped the media saying it is “sensationalising” issues rather than focusing on development matters.”

Prime Minister Raila Odinga joined the fray saying that the Giant Coalition government was alive and kicking. “We are working and those who think the Government is not working can see the work we are doing,” said Raila.

The trio were speaking during the launch of Kazi kwa Vijana (Jobs for Youth) National Programme in Mashuru, Kajiado district.

Polls have indicated Kenyans are not happy with the performance of the grand coalition government in tackling corruption and reforms amongst other things.

The latest survey conducted by Transparency International-Kenya indicated that 72 percent of respondents feel the government is not keen on fighting graft. A survey done by Steadman indicated that 70 per cent of Kenyans believe that the Government has not achieved anything.

Only last month, religious leaders at a prayer meeting for the victims of two fire tragedies, lambasted the leaders for not doing enough in the fight against famine and corruption.

More on these stories from Capital FM and the Standard newspaper.

Advertisements

Mass sackings at Nation Media Group

Reports indicate that dozens of journalists have been fired from the Nation Media Group in a nasty New Year’s surprise.

Well-known reporters, commentators and television presenters have been swept out by Nation CEO, Linus Gitahi. The reasons given for the sacking are as varied as the number of outlets reporting the event.

A lady presenter for NTV was given matching orders for being, “too fat,” says the Weekly Citizen. Other journalists were fired for not toeing the company line as far as editorial coverage for certain political parties is concerned.

However, the Nation Media Group is not unique in corporate scandals afflicting the media. Not too long ago, there were mass sackings at Nation’s rival, the Standard Group, resulting in the strengthened influence of a particular ethnic group. People coming from tribes perceived as hostile to the Standard’s political leanings ended up on the streets.

Word around Nairobi is that the Nation Media Group is afflicted with corruption, favourism and sex scandals from top to bottom. Women are particularly hard-hit by demands for sex in exchange for lucrative careers. It is said that even married women are not spared and families have broken up as a consequence.

One of the group’s senior executives is notorious in being unable to control his insatiable appetite for subordinate staff.

To be fair though, the story is the same in other Kenyan media houses. A prominent male broadcaster has gained fame for “sampling” female journalists in media companies where he has worked.

What makes the ex-Nation employees bitter is that their retrenchment has little to do with actual performance. They say that non-performing individuals who are in good books with the management have kept their jobs.

But it is not only top executives who have been caught pants down in Kenya’s media industry. An investigative journalist with a major television station ran a series of exposes about a high-flying politician. It later emerged that the reporter wanted to bring down the politician because they were competing for the same woman.

The news about sackings at Nation has been given a blackout by the rest of Kenya’s mainstream media. Apparently, there is collusion in ensuring audiences never get to hear of the matter.

Showdown looms after Kibaki signs controversial media law

He did it! Against all the advice, protests and petitions, President Mwai Kibaki signed into law the Kenya Information, Communication and Technology Bill 2008.

Now, the Kenyan government can shut down broadcast stations and confiscate equipment without a court warrant. The government can, thanks to the new law, intercept your postal mail, disclose its contents or dispose of it altogether.

It gets worse

Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his ODM party opposed the Communications Bill. With Kibaki’s signature yesterday, a showdown is in the offing that could wreck the giant coalition between Kibaki and Raila. The end of the coalition could stoke fresh ethnic clashes between ethnic groups allied to the two men.

But the Prime Minister and his party are not entirely blameless in the draconian law. When the Bill was brought for debate in parliament, Raila and ODM legislators refrained from voting. The Bill was passed by a mere 25 pro-Kibaki legislators, and ODM reacted only after mounting public outrage against the law.

After the Bill was passed in the absence of ODM, a key ally of the Prime Minister said that they would go to court should President Kibaki sign it into law. Some legislators even threatened to lead ODM out of the coalition. It now remains to be seen whether the party will make good on its threats. Should that happen, Prime Minister Raila Odinga will be in a very difficult situation.

Raila is now between a rock and a hard place. Either way, the country’s political stability will rapidly deteriorate. If he stays in the coalition, he will lose the reformist credentials that won him fanatic support during the 2007 presidential campaigns. If he walks out of the coalition, the international community will blame him for the consequences.

The current coalition between Raila and Kibaki is the product of international mediation following disputed elections in December 2007 where both men were front-runners. Political and ethnic clashes between their supporters left over 1,000 dead and half a million homeless. Many of the displaced are still living in camps, fearing fresh violence.

The Communication Bill 2008 was first introduced before the 2007 elections but was shelved as the government faced declining popularity. This year, it was reintroduced in what the government calls, an attempt to regulate the media industry.

Kenya’s media say they are capable of controlling their activities in line with the tastes of their audiences but the state argues that self regulation has not worked.

What the media bill says …

Under the law that President Kibaki has assented, the minister in charge of information and broadcasting has powers to unilaterally – without recourse to parliament or the courts – to enter, search and seize broadcasting stations and apparatus. The minister can dismantle and dispose of such stations and apparatus.

Workers at the post office will have the right to open up mail and read in the name of public security.

The minister for internal security will have overwhelming powers to unilaterally suspend and even obliterate constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, property, privacy, protection of the law and due process.

The future of the coalition

Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his party oppose the Bill and might walk out of the Giant Coalition. This may or may not necessitate an election but with existing ethnic tensions its unrealistic to hold fresh elections any time soon. Violence will be the natural result and deaths and displacement will resume.

On the other hand, should Raila and ODM stay with Kibaki, their credibility will be irredeemably destroyed. Already, most ODM supporters feel that their cause was betrayed by Raila accepting to work as Kibaki’s Prime Minister.

In any case, with the Electoral Commission of Kenya’s dissolution last month, there is currently no legally constituted organization to oversee elections.

*********************************
With reports from the Daily Express newspaper
*********************************

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.

*****************************************

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?

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

Mass action updates – 16 December 2008

Mass action updates as at 17:30hrs Kenyan time.

– Maseno student leader arrested for distributing T-shirts urging MPs to pay tax. President Mwai Kibaki is scheduled to attend the university’s graduation tomorrow.

– Tomorrow’s media demonstration in Nairobi against the Communications Bill 2008 banned by police.

ODM diaspora attacks Kibaki – Raila duopoly

Press release by ODM Scandinavia branch.

Press release by ODM Scandinavia branch.

This year’s Jamhuri day celebrations in Nairobi were marked by bitter protests by Kenyans which saw the arrest of journalists, brutalization of activists by equally brutal security guards and attempts by a section of protesters to disrupt the Jamhuri celebrations altogether as President Kibaki was giving his key-note speech.

At the center of the protests is the controversial passing by Parliament of the draconian Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008, high food prices that have led to starvation of millions of poor Kenyans across Kenya, failure by MPs to pay taxes for their million salaries and misplaced expenditure and looting of the economy by the ruling class as the country continues to beg for hand-outs from agents of Western imperialism represented by the United States, Britain and the European Union.

The Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008 will basically allow the Minister of Internal Security to raid media houses with impunity, seize equipment, arrest journalists at will and disable the Press anytime in Kenya.

When the Coalition took over government with President Mwai Kibaki as Head of State and Raila Odinga as Prime Minister, the general belief of Kenyans was that the government would move along the path of expanding the democratic space that would accord the media greater freedom. In the absence of a political Opposition on the ground, the media remains the public’s trusted watchdog and it is for this reason that any legislation designed to narrow or reduce Press freedom must remain suspect.

With the media bill a few steps away from becoming law, the message the Coalition government is sending to Kenyans is that the new government is ready to violate the rights and freedoms of Kenyans (including Press freedom) which were won with sweat, pain, life and blood in protracted and bitter struggles that have been well documented in history books. This is unacceptable to say the least.

The scandalous attack on The East African Standard by the Kibaki dictatorship is still fresh in the memories of Kenyans. The new media bill being peddled by the Coalition is designed to facilitate such attacks at anytime, at any media house and for any reason. From the position of ODM-Scandinavia, the enactment of the media bill amounts to a roll-back of the democratic gains of the last three decades, a move that should be resisted by all Kenyans and by any means necessary.

Arrests were illegal, draconian, oppressive and heavy handed

We congratulate the gallant Kenyans who took the unprecedented step of confronting the Kibaki-Raila dictatorship head-on with respect to the key issues mentioned.

Apart from struggle, there is no short cut to freedom and liberation of a people suffering under the yoke of oppression, mass poverty, hunger and deprivation in the midst of plenty. As yesterday’s freedom fighters become today’s sell outs, new revolutionaries have to emerge to continue with the people’s struggle while learning from mistakes of the past.

Hungry Wananchi at Jamhuri

The Orange Democratic Movement in Scandinavia (ODM-Scandinavia) condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the arrest and brutalization of Kenyans who were protesting against the new media bill on Jamhuri day together with those who sought to bring to the attention of the government the reality of high food prices that has created mass starvation across the country at a critical time when millions of Kenyans find it difficult to put food on the table.

Most importantly, ODM-Scandinavia is very disturbed with the arrest of activists who wore T-shirts calling for MPs to pay taxes and which advised Kenyans to stop paying taxes if MPs cannot do the same.

There can be no taxation without representation and if MPs who are supposed to represent the taxpayer cannot themselves pay taxes, then there is no justification whatsoever why Kenyans should continue paying taxes which are, nevertheless, looted by the greedy ruling classes.

We have in mind the arrest of Mwalimu Mati, the Chairman of the MARS Group who was taken into custody together with his wife, the arrest and brutalization of Mr. Odhiambo Owuor who has since been admitted to Nairobi Women’s hospital from where he claimed that members of the Presidential security guards tortured him, the arrest of several journalists who were protesting against the media bill and the taking into police custody of several activists who were simply exercising their freedom of expression in independent Kenya by putting on T-shirts with a political message.

By arresting Owuor, the government has proven its primitivity because it should have accepted Owuor’s message to understand what he wanted to tell the President since he was unarmed and of no threat to the President. Instead, he says that he was almost castrated.

The position of ODM-Scandinavia is that in making the illegal arrests, the action of the government was illegal, draconian, oppressive and heavy handed, given that those arrested had not committed any crime. The illegal arrests is further evidence that there is nothing to celebrate on Jamhuri day because Kenyans now have to go back to struggle to defend freedoms that were won decades ago.

ODM-Scandinavia warns the Coalition government that its attempt to revert Kenya back to the days of dictatorship of the Moi type will not be tolerated by Kenyans under any circumstance. We call for the unconditional release of all those arrested with immediate effect.

Martin Ngatia
Vice Chairperson
ODM-Scandinavia

Mass action update – 14th December 2008

Mass action updates as at 16:15 Kenyan time.

  • Kenyan paramilitary police seal off Uhuru Park following reports of planned rallies.
  • Mwalimu Mati and his wife released from Langata Police Station following protests and blockading of Langata Road by civil society activists.
  • Police seal Kariakor roundabout after Mungiki threaten to demonstrate in the city.
  • Demonstrators dispersed from Ufungamano House.
  • Oscar Foundation head arrested.

Reports by Citizen TV, Nation Media and Capital FM.