Media Council of Kenya CEO, Mr David Omwoyo, during a round table for journalists safety. PHOTO/MCK
By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN
The United Nations is working with the Kenya government and other stakeholders to establish a national mechanism on safety of journalists it was revealed today.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regional communication expert, Ms Lydia Gachungi, said the UN agency was working with the government, Media Council of Kenya, Kenya Union of Journalists and other players on the issue.
“This initiative will bring together the academia, UN, the government, civil society organizations’ and other stakeholders,” Ms Gachungi who was speaking during a roundtable on journalists’ safety at a Nairobi hotel said.
She added that the Kenya national mechanism for safety of journalists will result in media houses establishing journalists’ safety policies, media training institutions incorporating journalists’ safety in their training programmes and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions establishing a desk to deal with journalists related safety issues.
Ms Gachungi said cases of individuals threatening journalists is becoming an issue of concern in Kenya and ‘citizens’ attacks against journalists is alarming.’
“Impunity against journalists in Kenya is worrying because many cases of crimes against journalists are not adequately investigated as a result no action is taken against the perpetrators,” she said.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regional communication expert, Ms Lydia Gachungi. PHOTO/MCK
Over the weekend, Mr David Mugonyi, the press secretary of Deputy President William Ruto, was on the spot for threatening to have Sunday Nation reporter Justus Wanga sacked over a story he termed as ‘fake news’.
The CEO of the Media Council of Kenya, Mr David Omwoyo, said the national mechanism for safety of journalists in Kenya is being undertaken under the Kenya Media Sector Working Group.
“We have already established contact with the Police Service and the DPP and other stakeholders on this issue,” he said.
Mr Omwoyo said the biggest threats to journalists in the country were now coming from government functionaries and the community.
“The MCK is asking people aggrieved by journalists to follow civil ways of having their grievances addressed like filing complaints with us or demanding the right of reply from the concerned media houses instead of resorting to unorthodox means,” he said.
The MCK boss said recent converts from newsrooms to the public relations sector and propagandists had become the most dangerous media practitioners.
Mr Omwoyo said fake news is now becoming a major cause of threats against journalists adding that MCK and Internews had jointly launched a project to counter fake news and hate speech.
He added that this year journalists will be required to undergo MCK code of conduct training before being accredited as part of efforts to weed-out quacks from the journalism profession.
Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) secretary-general, Mr Eric Oduor, said journalists had become their own enemies because some editors in different newsrooms had been compromised and were undermining their juniors.
“This year as KUJ we are not going to spare such people and we will instead name and shame them,” he said.
Ms Dinah Kituyi from Irex. PHOTO/MCK
Ms Dinah Kituyi from Irex said that most media houses in Kenya did not take the issue of journalist’s safety seriously especially their mental wellness yet they were being exposed to traumatizing environment in the course of their work.
She said newsrooms need to put in place psychosocial support systems to help journalists.
While traditional news reporting is losing its relevance, serious investigation now requires more than basic journalistic skills. To do this we require a lot of resources.
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Nelson Mandela once said: “A critical, independent, and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.”
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