Thursday, May 2, 2013

Uhuru pledges press freedom

PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI President Kenyatta meets Media Council of Kenya chairman Joseph Odindo (left) during the World Press Freedom Day celebrations at KICC, Nairobi on May 2, 2013. With them are Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and Communication ministry PS Bitange Ndemo (right).

PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI President Kenyatta meets Media Council of Kenya chairman Joseph Odindo (left) during the World Press Freedom Day celebrations at KICC, Nairobi on May 2, 2013. With them are Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and Communication ministry PS Bitange Ndemo (right).  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By PETER LEFTIE [email protected]

President Kenyatta has promised to defend and promote media freedom.

He said the Jubilee government will implement policies that promote media freedom.

“My government will fight any attempts to gag the media or any other action that will cripple them,” the President said when he opened the Media Council of Kenya Regional Journalists’ Convention at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre on Thursday.

Four Bills will be speeded up in Parliament to entrench media freedom, he said.

“We expect the media to be at the forefront in educating, and informing Kenyans so that they hold the government to account,” Mr Kenyatta said.

He praised the media for the way they covered the March 4 General Election.

But he added: “We expect the media to remain free, fair and objective. The sense of responsibility in the media must expand to social media and other emerging forms of media,” he said during the opening of a two-day convention that is part of the World Press Freedom Day celebrations. The talks will focus on media regulation in Africa, safety and protection of journalists and professionalism in the industry.

Mr Kenyatta promised that the government will review digital signal distribution to ensure that it is not monopolised by one or two companies.

He was responding to Media Council of Kenya chairman Joseph Odindo’s concern 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 asked that a third company be licensed to cater for the interests of local broadcast media, saying the matter was causing disquiet within the media industry.

Media Owners Association chairman Kiprono Kittony defended local media against accusations that it was heavily censored in covering the last general election.

He said the media had deliberately set out to protect national interests to avoid a repeat of the violence that rocked the country when ODM disputed the outcome of the 2007 presidential election results.

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

Mr Odindo condemned attacks on journalists across Africa.

“Journalism is under threat on this continent. Journalists have been attacked in countries such as Tanzania, Somalia and the Gambia in some cases by government agents and in other case by goons,” he said.

Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero called on media owners to address the remuneration of journalists to enhance professionalism. He underscored the gains made in entrenching freedom of the media in Kenya noting that journalists no longer have to live in fear of being hounded by state agents.

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