NAIROBI, Kenya, May 2- President Uhuru Kenyatta has assured the country that policies adopted by the Government will guarantee that accessing free-to-air broadcasts remain without charge.
He told investors in the industry that as much as they want returns from their businesses, they should not limit access to content to subscribers only.
Addressing a media conference ahead of the World Press Freedom Day at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, the President challenged journalists to ensure they practice professional reporting that will help in the growth of the country.
“Kenya and Africa, can ill afford journalists who are not qualified, or who do not observe the highest ethical standards, and who do not operate within the law. The very recent experience of our neighbours – experience that is within the memory of most of you here today – teaches us that careless or malicious journalism can destroy a country,” he affirmed.
“There is no room here for absolute freedom of the press. There is no room here for a freedom of the press that does not come with an equal challenge for the media to be responsible. It is your job as journalists to check your facts, and after you have checked, to check again. It is your job as journalists to know what the law requires, and to observe its demands. It is your job always to keep by your side your own code of conduct and to refer to it before your story is written.”
“Where this is not done, where you fail in your duties to yourselves, your profession and your countrymen, then the State must and will defend those who have no other way of protecting themselves.”
President Kenyatta also pointed out instances by leading newspapers where information was wrong, saying it is important to get facts right.
“I will pick two: one claimed that we had spent Sh100 million on our Cabinet retreat, and another claimed that I had secretly and unlawfully extended the term of the Chief of Kenya’s Defence Forces. These stories were wholly without foundation, and had the potential to harm the public welfare. The falsehoods could have been avoided by a little more diligence and care on your part,” he lamented. “I trust you will take the advice to heart.”
He said the freedom of media was indeed initiated by the country freedom fighters among them the founding father of the country, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta who was a journalist and a newspaper editor.
“And yet, at the height of our struggle for independence, he, and other equally courageous Kenyan journalists and writers, defended with their words and lives the right of our people to be free. The Kenyan journalists of the past were among the heroes of our independence struggle. We remember and honour their contributions today,” he stated.
“Our struggle did not end with independence. At the dawn of our freedom, the young nation faced daunting challenges. Our founding fathers pledged themselves to fight a war against poverty, ignorance and disease. It is a war to which we fall heir, and which we must fight as relentlessly as they did.”
“We have now had more than a century of printed media. The record shows that they have been central actors in the history of our nation. They were there at the beginning, documenting our colonial history. You will recall that the first President of the Republic was a journalist and newspaper editor, whose newspaper was banned by the colonial authorities.”
President Kenyatta told the media: “We should continue working together, and we should know that we all live in the same place and we each have an equal responsibility to save guarding it…each one of us. We should all be partners in protecting and developing it.”
Information Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said there will be four more Bills set to be presented to Parliament for approval that will enhance access of information and protection of journalists.
Media Council of Kenya Chief Executive Officer Harun Mwangi challenged the government to ensure journalist easily access information.
“The delay in enacting the Access to Information and Data Protection laws as provided for by the Constitution has caused concerns amongst the media fraternity in the country,” he said.
He explained that the two laws are very critical in facilitating journalism practice in the country. “It’s only the Access to Information law that would obligate people, especially those holding information on behalf of the public, to release it and equally provide for protection of individual privacy.”