Free press more than ever, says Nation founder The Aga Khan

Founder reaffirms ideals of company he set up 56 years ago.

Friday March 18 2016

The Aga Khan at the commissioning of the Nation’s new state-of-the-art printing press on Mombasa Road, Nairobi on March 17, 2016. With him are (from left) NMG chairman Wilfred Kiboro, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, CEO Joe Muganda, Head of Production Gideon Aswani and ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru. The new press can print 86,000 copies in an hour. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Aga Khan at the commissioning of the Nation’s new state-of-the-art printing press on Mombasa Road, Nairobi on March 17, 2016. With him are (from left) NMG chairman Wilfred Kiboro, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, CEO Joe Muganda, Head of Production Gideon Aswani and ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru. The new press can print 86,000 copies in an hour. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Nation Media Group founder The Aga Khan has described the firm’s new printing press as a rededication to the ideals of the company he established 56 years ago.

He said with the media landscape changing rapidly because of new technology, the role of an independent media house such as the Nation Media Group, whose flagship brand is the Nation, “is more important than ever”.

“As we often do at milestone events — in our personal as well as institutional lives — we think today about our dreams of the past and our hopes for the future,” he said at the commissioning of the press at the company’s printing plant on Mombasa Road.

“Milestone moments are times for celebration and they are also times for rededication. As we commission this new press today, we are also rededicating ourselves to the ideals which gave birth to this company almost six decades ago and that have propelled it forward ever since,” he added.

The event was attended by NMG board members led by chairman Wilfred Kiboro, chief executive Joe Muganda, Editor-in-Chief Tom Mshindi, Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru and other guests.

The first edition of this newspaper was published on March 20, 1960, with The Aga Khan’s principal aim being to create an independent news medium that Kenyans could trust. Independence was three years away.

“Our goal was not to tell people what to think but to give them reliable information so that they could think more clearly for themselves,” said The Aga Khan.

Things have certainly changed since the last upgrade of the printing press 18 years ago.

The Aga Khan described the new press as a technological marvel. It can print 86,000 copies per hour, meaning it takes much less time to produce the thousands of copies of the Daily Nation, Taifa Leo, Business Daily and the weekly, The EastAfrican.

FULL-COLOUR PAGES

It also offers advertisers and readers better quality and variety with its ability to print 80 full-colour pages.

For the business, this means the paper gets to the market early.

It also has the ability to create more editions with content targeting the relevant audiences.  

ETHICAL AND PROCEDURAL STANDARDS

Over the past 10 years, websites, bloggers and social media have resulted in an increase in media voices, The Aga Khan said, resulting in a wild mix of messages with both good and bad information and confusion and conflict.

“On top of that, this is also a time when public emotions, and political sentiments, are intensifying and even polarising again all over the world,” he said.

“The result, some people say, is that we live in a ‘post-fact’ society. It’s not just that everyone feels entitled to his or her own opinion — that’s a good thing. But the problem comes when people feel they are entitled to their own facts. What is true, too often, can then depend not on what actually happened, but on whose side you are,” he added.

This, he said, threatens to reduce the search for truth and make allegiance to a cause, ideology, political party or a tribal or religious identity more important, leading societies into a deadlock.

“In such a world, it is absolutely critical, more than ever, that the public should have somewhere to turn for reliable, balanced, objective and accurate information. No one, including the Nation Media Group, will ever be able to do that perfectly.  But it is critically important that all of us should try,” he added.

To help the group achieve its ideals effectively, he said, the company came up with a set of editorial guidelines that were approved by shareholders. He said these guidelines were at the centre of meetings with editors and members of the NMG board prior to yesterday’s launch.

“We all concluded that the role of a truly independent media house is more important now than ever, in Africa and all around the world.  And we also acknowledged that fulfilling that independent role may be more difficult (now) than ever before,” he added.  

Still, he said, the guidelines represent the ethical and procedural standards for NMG journalists who adhere to them as a moral obligation.

“That may sound idealistic, but that is the reason I founded the Nation a half century ago. That is also why we recently started a Graduate School of Media and Communication here in Nairobi as part of the Aga Khan University. And it is why I wanted to be here today … to share in another milestone moment for the Nation Media Group,” he said.

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