President Uhuru Kenya has unveiled his four-point agenda, which, if well-managed, executed and communicated, will mark his legacy.
Indeed, the government’s priorities are being re-aligned to focus on his legacy projects. While the perception in the government is that media are not an important player in the realisation of this legacy, it’s mistaken.
Indeed, a serious communication strategy is needed to engage the media and update the public on the progress. Public support is very critical.
A professional engagement and prior information disclosure are vital; especially with the presidential spokesperson, government spokesperson, the messaging team and the presidential delivery team. The achievement of his legacy will not benefit from unnecessary and unwanted distractions.
The provision of clear, timely and continuous information flow to the public is a critical aspect of governance anchored in the Constitution and the media are critical here.
The President’s first tenure was marked with an attempt to enhance information sharing through regular press briefings by Cabinet Secretaries and other officials. This has since stopped.
Plans were at an advanced stage to set up a media centre hosted by the Department of Public Information at the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology.
It would be used by public officers, including Cabinet and Principal secretaries to brief the public on government programmes. We now have the national communication secretariat.
Government engagement with the media should be a conversation/dialogue that allows question/answer approach instead of the talking-down approach.
Media are an industry that creates jobs and attracts heavy investment, and constant bashing is scaring away potential investors in the sector and denying Kenyans jobs.
Media should find innovative ways of seeking information from government offices, using the right to information provision, applying data mining and analysis tools, releasing periodic in depth analyses on performance, and publicly naming individuals frustrating their work.
Kenyans need to track progress on implementation. The lack of an official way of communication to the public has seen frequent protocol goofs, conflicting information from and about the government, inadequate communication within and without the government, slow flow of information, lack of basic communication tools and equipment within government and generally poor projection of the government’s image.
The government voice, especially on what it’s doing, has been lost and many times even those working for it have often responded to issues through the political parties/affiliation prism.
In this era of the constitutional requirements of Articles 33, 34 and 35, information sharing, and for this matter credible and factual information released in a timely manner, is crucial for managers, including those in government. The government is a signatory to the Open Government Partnership, and has many times indicated its commitment to open governance and adhering to the Constitution.
Times are changing and the new environment calls for new ways of doing business. It’s laudable that the government has realised this and is working on its official communication strategy.
Indeed, the government has applied the minimalist approach to sharing information, making it difficult to understand its operations, procedures and activities. This has on many occasions isolated the government from the people, and the search for information, especially by the media, when frustrated, often results in speculative and uninformed discourses, which can be dangerous for the country.
Mr Bwire is the programmes manager at the Media Council of Kenya. [email protected]