Kenya to vet journalism schools

May 3, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 3 – As the world marked Press Freedom Day on Monday, the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) announced that it was in the process of standardising the training of journalists in the country.

Chairman Wachira Waruru stated that the proliferation of bogus colleges has led to an increase in sub-standard and unprofessional dissemination of information.

He noted that a standardised system would ensure that the information presented to the public was accurate.

“If you have 60 new FM stations and all of them have got news broadcasts, they all need journalists so there is a certain demand for reporters,” he observed.

“The capacity previously was not that high. That demand was accompanied by businessmen and entrepreneurs who saw a gap in setting up colleges for journalists,” he stated. “So all these things together and the desire by media houses to employ these people created loopholes.”

Mr Waruru stressed the need for journalism training colleges to be uniformly certified.

“The ideal situation is to have a certification process so that they can be published somewhere,” he pointed out.

“That will protect parents who have paid a lot of money taking their kids to bogus colleges and they will know that these are the people who have the right standardisation.”

Meanwhile, Editor’s Guild chairman Macharia Gaitho stressed the need for parliamentarians to pass the Freedom of Information Act.

He said that it is expected to repeal the archaic Official Secrets Act and will further enable reporters to demand information they need from
the government.

He stated that if passed, the law would criminalise offences for any civil servants to deny journalists any information.

“We do have a Freedom of Information Act and when we met with the Attorney General last year he did promise that he would hasten it and one of the things we agreed is that whatever deal we struck would include the passage of that Bill. It has not yet come through,” he said.

Mr Gaitho was speaking during the observation of the World Press Freedom day where he said that under the current government, it is very difficult to collect information from various departments.

“Call any Ministry and ask to speak to the Director of Information and you want certain information, you will be told that it is impossible and you will have to pass through the Minister or the Permanent Secretary,” he noted.

“So what is the point of that fellow other than sending you the entire minister’s speeches?” he wondered.

Speaking at the same time, United Nations Development Program Resident Representative Aeneas Chuma emphasised the need for a conducive environment which enables journalists carry out their duties effectively.

He explained that many times, reporters work under harsh conditions where restrictions are the norm and where there is a lot of pressure.

“Far too many journalists exercise their profession in an environment where restrictions on information are rife and even the environment is harsh. Last year alone, 77 journalists around the world lost their lives in the line of duty,” he said.

He emphasised the need for all governments to play their part in protecting those who work for them. He said that this included investigating and prosecuting those who commit crimes against journalists.


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