The government’s shutdown of four private television stations early this year affected the independence of the media in Kenya, a report revealed on Thursday during celebrations to mark World Press Freedom Day.
A survey conducted by Ipsos in 45 counties found that 54 per cent of those interviewed faulted the government for the shutdown, saying it was unconstitutional while 36 per cent supported the move.
While most of those interviewed felt that the shutdown contributed to making the Kenyan media less independent, the level of government interference between January 2017 and March 2018 has declined.
Because of the government’s influence in January 2017, the level of media independence stood at 34 per cent. By March this year it had risen to 44 per cent.
Statistics show that the number of people who felt the government’s influence on the media reduced their independence in the said period had gone down while that those who believe the media are not independent, and those who were not sure, rose.
The report also showed that the public’s confidence in the media has gone down since 2015.
“Kenya ranks poorly in terms of press freedom. Media independence is a very contested space, the editors will work to ensure it is adhered to,” Mr Churchill Otieno, the new chairman of the Editors Guild, and Nation Media Group's online and new content editor, said.
After NTV, KTN and Citizen TV were shutdown in January this year, radio was the main source of news.
According to the Media Council of Kenya, the shutdown was a learning experience, hence the need for a working relationship between the media and the government.
During the celebrations, it was noted that women remain marginalised in media houses.
Compared with the media in other parts of the world, Kenya’s media environment is said to be becoming increasingly hostile since the police and State officials can harass or intimidate reporters with impunity.
A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed that political tensions have eased since the presidential elections, but “the ability of journalists to report and comment freely continues to be undermined by State officials”.
In an assessment coinciding with World Press Freedom Day, HRW researcher Otsieno Namwaya recounted a series of physical and verbal attack