I will protect media freedom, says Uhuru

Thursday May 2 2013

President Kenyatta addresses delegates during the official opening of the Media Council of Kenya Regional Journalists’ Convention at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), Nairobi May 2, 2013. He said his government will defend media freedom. Also in the picture is Nation Media Group Editorial Director Joseph Odindo and Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo. BILLY MUTAI.

President Kenyatta addresses delegates during the official opening of the Media Council of Kenya Regional Journalists’ Convention at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), Nairobi May 2, 2013. He said his government will defend media freedom. Also in the picture is Nation Media Group Editorial Director Joseph Odindo and Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo. BILLY MUTAI.  

By PETER LEFTIE

President Uhuru Kenyatta has said his government will defend media freedom.

The President said the Jubilee government will implement policies, programs and initiatives that promote freedom of the media to ensure that it discharges its mandate effectively.

"My government will fight any attempts to gag the media or any other action that will cripple its operations," the President said when he opened the Media Council of Kenya Regional Journalists’ Convention at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), Nairobi Thursday.

He noted that the government will fast track four Bills geared towards entrenching media freedom in the country so that they are debated and enacted by Parliament within the timelines set by the Constitution.

“We expect the media to be at the forefront in educating, and informing Kenyans so that they hold the government to account from an informed point of view,” Mr Kenyatta stated while applauding the media for the professional manner in which it covered the last General Election.

He, however, urged media to uphold the highest standards of professionalism as they discharge their duties.

"We expect the media to remain free, fair and objective,” Mr Kenyatta said.

"The sense of responsibility in the media must expand to social media and other emerging forms of media," he said.

Mr Kenyatta promised that the government will review the digital signal distribution structure to ensure that it is not monopolizsd by one or two companies at the expense of other players in the media industry.

“To my government, the media is too important sector to be left to one player,” Mr Kenyatta stated. He was responding to concerns expressed by the Media Council of Kenya chairman Joseph Odindo that only two companies with close links to the government had been given digital broadcast licences at the expense of the local broadcast media.

Mr Odindo had called for the government’s intervention to ensure that a third company is also licensed to cater for the interests of local broadcast media saying the matter was causing a lot of disquiet within the local media industry. 

The Media Owners Association chairman Kiprono Kittony defended local media against accusations that it was heavily censored in its coverage of the last elections.

He instead noted that the media had deliberately set out to protect national interests in is election coverage to avoid a repeat of the violence that rocked the country following the disputed 2007 election.

“The media decided to put the interests of the nation first, there was no censorship at all,” Mr Kittony said.   

The two-day convention is part of the World Press Freedom Day activities and will focus on Media Regulation in Africa, Safety and Protection of Journalists and Professionalism in the industry.

Participants comprise media practitioners, trainers and policy makers from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, South Africa, Somalia and Burundi with other speakers coming from, Europe, America and Asia.