Access to information by journalists in Kenya will help the country join the fast lane of world’s developed democracies, Executive Director of Katiba Institute Christine Nkonge said on Thursday.
Ms Nkonge, however, said that Kenya was still struggling to achieve democratic maturity owing to various challenges in accessing vital information by journalists.
She said that said if journalists understand the Access to Information law and use it as their everyday tool, they will help the country put is democratic process on the right track.
“Journalists can assist the country to attain a mature democracy through enhanced good governance, accountability and transparency in public and private entities,” said Ms Nkonge a Machakos hotel on Thursday during workshop on Access to Information Law.
The training, which was jointly organised by Katiba Institute and Media Council of Kenya aims, at equipping investigative journalists with skills to promote good governance.
Ms Nkonge said the critical role the media plays in disseminating information to the society could only be enhanced if they had knowledge on the Access to Information Law.
“The media plays a critical oversight role on behalf of the public and therefore it is imperative for them to have a deep understanding of the Access to Information Law,” said Ms Nkonge.
She said investigative journalism has changed Kenyans’ way of thinking and understanding issues. She cited the various scandals and extra judicial killings by police in Kenya as practical examples of the critical role investigative journalism can play in enhancing human rights.
“Investigative pieces on the misuse of public funds and recently on food security and other human rights violations are some of the critical information that has shaped the way the public think,” she added.
However, she said that investigative journalism can only thrive if journalists know their rights to access information as enshrined in the Constitution.
Ms Nkonge condemned the rising cases of assault on journalists while on line of duty.
“Attack on journalists is a sign of a weakening democratic link in our country and this trend should be put to a permanent stop because the society has a right to get information through journalists,” said Ms Nkonge.
Veteran journalist and a representative of the Media Council of Kenya, Mr Henry Maina urged journalists to familiarise themselves with the Access to Information Law.
“Local journalists can use Access to information law to come up with explosive investigative stories as long as they have an elaborate plan on how to execute it,” said Mr Maina who is also a member of the Complaints Commission at the Media Council of Kenya.