SILENTLY SUFFERING, NO PRESS FREEDOM FOR HARASSED AND UNDERPAID KENYAN JOURNALISTS

Suffering in silence, no press freedom for the harassed and underpaid Kenyan Journalists. PHOTO /CORRESPONDENT

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

currently.

 

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

tribalism.
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

sacrifice.

 

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?.

 

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