Suffering in silence, no press freedom for harassed and underpaid Kenyan Journalists
By Veteran Journalist David Matende (African Times Guest Writer)
Let me say without equivocation that advising the upcoming
Kenyan youth to aspire to be a journalist is a wrong move
On Monday 03rd May was the 30th Press Freedom Day. This is the
one day in a year when focus is on journalists. It’s a day to remind
governments and other stakeholders to let journalists do their work
. It is also a day to honour those that have paid the ultimate prize
seeking to tell important stories .
Unfortunately it is the worst time to be a scribe especially in Kenya .
While previously the enemies of the journalist were few and easily
identified , today they are not only numerous, but also insidious.
Journalists of the old had mainly the state using its organs such as
police and courts to contend with. Politicians and the occasional
business organization completed the list of intimidators .
Today , the list is long. Apart from the usual suspects, add
advertisers that wouldn’t advertise in media that tells them the
truth, media owners that are only interested in profits, organized
criminal gangs, politicians, cyber bullies that droll truths telling
journalists, entitled men and women who feel that journalists
threaten their privileges, technology that has eaten jobs, assorted
The coronavirus together with the Government who care less for
the suffering of its Citizens have made an ugly situation uglier ,
keeping many a scribe out of work and ensuring that those lucky to
keep their desks in newsrooms earn a dog’s pay.
That is why I wouldn’t advice a young person looking for a career to
aspire to be a journalist. This is not to say that there ever was a time
when journalism was a “good” job. But then it was worth the
One would expect that under these dire circumstances,
organizations that are charged with protecting journalists would up
their game. But alas, they have not!
The organizations such as the Kenya Union of Journalists, the Media
Council of Kenya and the Editor’s Guild.
The reasons these organizations are unable to fight for journalists is
because most are led by men and women with no known history of
press freedom agitation, or protection of journalists. These are men
and women who could be in those positions because they are paid.
That is why they have no fire in their bellies.
But truth be told, the Media Council of Kenya Chairman, despite his
many years in the newsroom, since the Nyayo days, I don’t
remember him being got up in any “press freedom situation”. I put
him in the category of “ comfort zone” journalists who are afraid to
ruffle feathers lest they jeopardize their employment.
Neither never met the secretary of the MCK, David Omwoyo, but we
remember him infamously for illegally attempting to eject a
member of the MCK board, Tabitha Mutemi. I have no idea from
where he came, his name having featured nowhere prior.
From reliable sources within the Media Council of Kenya, the origin
of the altercation between the two has nothing to do with whether
or not Tabitha is qualified to sit on the board. According to those in
the know, the two do not see eye to eye because Tabitha has been
questioning the rapaciousness of the secretary who is alleged that
has turned the council into a gravy train.
Apparently, the council has lately been swimming in money, its
budget allegedly having been increased almost tenfold. Of course
the money is meant to enhance press freedom activities ( and please
Victor Bwire, football matches and badly designed jackets are not
part of these!).
It is difficult to defend journalists , especially against media houses,
when you are housed within one of them, eating their food. The
likes of Eric Oduor and Churchill Otieno of Kenya Union of
Journalists and Kenya Editors Guild , respectively, are good men. But
if I was looking for warriors to fight in the press freedom
battleground, it is unlikely for them to be hired.
So, in a nutshell Kenyan journalists are on their own. Harassed,
underpaid, fired whimsically. Or in the worst cases, injured and
killed. Why encourage anyone to become a journalist?.