NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 8 – Editors from the Eastern Africa region held a virtual meeting Monday, to deliberate on mechanisms ensuring the safety and facilitation of journalists.
The meeting was part of a webinar organised by the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, with support from various organisations among them the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
“We have to find a way of starting a campaign that will help to update media laws in our countries to meet international standards. The training has to take cognizant of the fact that journalists’ security is paramount,” said Churchil Otieno, a Senior Editor at the Nation Media Group who is also the President of the Kenya Editors Guild (KEG).
He said the umbrella body of editors from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania are planning to hold sensitization training for editors and journalists on the safety of media practitioners.
Participants at the virtual meeting were also told of plans to start the process of establishing media centers of excellence in each of the member states, which will be used to mentor and train upcoming journalists to become professionals.
Otieno said there is need to push for resource allocation to ensure journalists working in community-based media stations are properly facilitated.
“Community media is key in many parts of Eastern Africa. It is clear, however, that in the current situation, many of these have ceased operations. A fund to support their work is important,” said the KEG President.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most media houses are straining due to lack of advertisers who are the main source of revenue.
As a result, the government through the Media Council of Kenya has allocated Sh100 million to support 25 TVs and 125 radio stations.
Ana Elisa Santana Afonso, who is the Director of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Liaison Office to the African Union (AU), said journalists should be supported when their rights are infringed.
“I think journalism should even be considered an emergency service due to the nature of their work. Independent media plays a key role in society. In the time of COVID-19 pandemic that role is more critical,” Afonso said as she pledged UNESCO’s commitment to support journalism.
The Eastern Africa Editors Forum was held under the overarching theme for this year’s UNESCO World Press Freedom Day – Journalism Without Fear or Favour.
The regional editors are now required to make recommendations on how to strengthen media landscape in the region.