Media criticism is welcome measure for accountability

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Media coverage and performance on recent events in the country has seen an increasing feedback and criticisms on the manner and texture of some of the stories; which is a very healthy issue. Others have sought court redress and got huge compensations from the media while others have resorted to attacking journalists individually.

Criticism is welcome as a peer review and accountability mechanism for the industry and an assurance that people are still consuming media products. However, the operating environment for the media has drastically changed and news ways of doing things are required.

The current business operating environment, including demands for accountability, quality content, respect for the rule of law and dwindling revenue streams requires that the media industry re invents news ways of operating; both in terms of new business models and enhanced professionalism and self-regulation.

Tough times require tough measures, and the media industry should be reminded that to survive, they must work on increasing public trust an spur audience confidence, through quality content with focus on public interest issues, which audiences identify with. And this is achievable because others elsewhere are doing it; just interact with colleagues from countries such as Sweden and Denmark and you see the possibilities.

The media must work towards creating solidarity and a common agenda for the media fraternity in the country to not only reduce the divisions in the sector, but ensure that media issues are part of the national agenda and the a conducive environment is created for the media to play its role in national development un hindered.

People in the profession must open up to the reality that media is under capture by dark forces, an internal reflection is urgently needed and there is an opportunity for redemption. But this cannot happen if journalists continue living in denial. The capture is from investors/owners, advertisers (public and private), commercial (dwindling revenue streams) and technological including fake news and influence of citizen information sources and lack of professionalism.

Instead of media owners and editors worrying too much about their balance sheets, they should support efforts to improve professionalism and unity among journalists with a view to the creation of structures that enhance media professionalism, accountability and welfare.

Media in Kenya is not a rogue industry and journalists are guided by a professional code of conduct thus Kenyans should not seem helpless when offended by the media or journalists should feel free to complain about mistreatment of their stories by their editors or sub editors.

The profession has enough mechanisms for self-regulation, both as an industry or at personal level. Indeed, the best mechanism globally to raise complaints against the media, in fact media related breaches are civil in nature are best handled outside the judicial/court system.

Section 23 of the Media Act 2013 establishes the Complaints Commission at the Media Council of Kenya, which is mandated to, amongst other things, regulate the ethical and professional standards of the Mass Media and to arbitrate disputes between (a) Public and the media ( b) Government and media (c) Intramedia disputes. The Commission bases its decisions on compliance with the code of conduct of practice of journalism in Kenya; contained in the second schedule of the Media Act 2013. The Commission redress decisions are meant to act as deterrence against wanton behaviour by the media.

The Commission has listened and made rulings in a number of media related cases that should inspire people to use it in solving media related disputes, and the industry must respect the decisions made as a way of strengthening self- regulation of the industry.

Victor Works at the Media Council of Kenya

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