Wednesday, December 6, 2023
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Freedom of the Press Tested

Article 34 of the Kenyan Constitution 2010 guarantees the freedom of the media. It states in part that the state shall not exercise control over or interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of information by any medium; or penalize any person for any opinion or view or the content of any broadcast, publication or dissemination. The media is as such, by the terms of this clause free from the control of the government.
The recent developments are however in contrast of this constitutional provision. That the media was shut down yesterday and more than 24 hours later they cannot broadcast is wrong. The interior CS Fred Matiang’i should come clear about the investigations he claims are going on as a basis for getting the shutdown stations back on.
It is ironical that the CS is calling for press conferences to relay the information to the nation, through the very press he is curtailing. Why then does he need the media? The freedom that the media enjoys is not a favor but a constitutional provision as a fundamental right. Trying to muzzle this freedom is therefore a violation of this right.
If this is what we are witnessing at the moment, does the press have a future? If everything they report must massage the egos of the powers that be, what does the future hold for the media? The media have a responsibility to inform the public of what is happening, play the watchdog role and also educate and entertain the masses. These responsibilities cannot be taken away just like that, for the benefit of a few people who are in power. The public also have a constitutional right to information and to expression. The media is one of the platforms through which they access this information and how they express themselves as well.
In a country where unemployment rates are skyrocketing, what does the future hold for student of communication and journalism if today, their industry is in the verge of being gagged? Where will we work? Will our courses still be relevant if this violation continues? There is need for sobriety, and the CS should let the media to do their work without interference and interruption.
As for media practitioners, there is need to remember the tenets of good practice. To whom are you loyal? We need to remain independent and objective in doing what we do, whether in the political season or not. All the same, we need the environment to do what we do best and that should not be violated, not even by the government because no one is above the law.

Yegon Emmanuel
Multimedia storyteller - Co-founder and Communications Director at Mobile Journalism Africa (

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