When President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto took the oath office a few weeks ago, they committed to upholding the rule of law and promoting democratic practices.
Kenya’s Constitution has been hailed for its robust expression and guarantee of civil liberties. It is progressive and espouses independence of institutions.
Media freedom is one of the liberties anchored in the Constitution. Underlying this is the fact that a free and robust media is instrumental in achieving democratic ideals as it offers information to enable citizens to make intelligent decisions and participate in governance processes.
However, we are perturbed by the recent threats against a Nation Media Group journalist by a spokesperson for the Deputy President, Mr David Mugonyi, who uncharacteristically derided him and went ahead to create the impression that he can order his sacking.
Mr Mugonyi is a trained journalist and understands the tenets of the profession. He works for a person and a government that has committed itself to respecting media freedoms as enshrined in law.
It is, therefore, confounding that he had the audacity to issue threats and use strong words on a professional journalist. Not when he knows pretty well that he has no powers to control journalists and the media at large.
Nearly a week after the senseless outburst, neither his boss, Mr Ruto, or any senior person in government has censured Mr Mugonyi. The silence is open to interpretation, and the obvious is that the administration tolerates, if not encourages, such senseless tirades. And this is not idle talk, considering similar threats and devious tactics applied on journalists in Jubilee’s first administration.
Whether or not the government punishes such tragic officers is a moot discussion, although it would help to mitigate against the bungles.
But the point is that the media will not be cowed. We will continue undeterred and, in fact, with renewed resolve to play our watchdog role with vigour and candour.
The era of media control and other oppressive practices is long gone. We will resist all those shameless designs to stifle the media.