, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 25 – Our attention has been drawn to the editorial of The Standard of January 25th 2010 titled ‘President’s guards must be civil, not roguish’ and an opinion piece by David Makali titled ‘Kibaki not good news for media’ carried by The Star edition of the same date.
In both these articles, concern has been raised over claims that Presidential security guards have harassed and thrown out journalists from covering some engagements by the Head of State.
Two recent incidents that have reportedly occurred have been cited; namely a funeral service in Othaya and during the burial of the President’s cousin in Nanyuki last Friday.
While such incidents are regrettable, and while we recognize that the public has a right to know what the country’s chief executive is doing, this does not entail the total abnegation of the privacy of the Head of State.
It is for this reason, and as the editorial of The Standard observes, that State House routinely notifies and invites media to official presidential functions that are intended for the public knowledge.
As all media houses will concede, media alerts are issued ahead of Presidential functions inviting media and detailing the event, time and venue. As all media houses will further agree, no such notification and invitation had been made for the two occasions that have been cited.
We urge media houses to respect this standard practice in order to avoid misunderstanding and unedifying incidences in future.
We are concerned that these articles have on the basis of these two incidents questioned the commitment of the President to press freedom. Needless to say, and as all Kenyans are aware, President Kibaki has been a staunch believer in the freedom of the press.
Under his watch, Kenya has had one of the most vibrant and free media in Africa. Since President Kibaki took over leadership, a deliberate commitment has been made to widen the democratic space and ensure total freedom of expression and freedom of media.
As a result, the media in Kenya is vibrant and has grown tremendously over the last few years, giving the likes of David Makali the right to express their feelings without any fear of retribution. We now have a multiplicity of radio and television stations, newspapers and magazines that offer wide-ranging programs.
These media houses operate freely and without any interference from the Government. It is clear that the government of President Kibaki has given media more space to operate freely.
It must also be appreciated that the media wields a double-edged sword. Media reports can serve to build or to destroy; to unite or to divide people.
Whereas the importance of the freedom of media cannot be questioned, it is also clear that freedom cannot be exercised without responsibility.
We appeal that the respective papers make these clarifications in the interests of correcting erroneous impressions that the publication of the articles may have created.
25th January 2010