I have seen some guys who work for the Government of Kenya, or who benefit directly from the government lecture the Kenyan media how to do their job. I would keep quiet were it not that their arguments are so idiotic and only care for which side of their bread is buttered.
To this class of people, the media is only objective when Jeff Koinange conducts interviews that are openly biased and disrespectful of the opposition. To this class of people, the media is only objective if Jackline Maribe goes to State House to take selfies with your ‘cool’ and ‘humble’ president. To this class of people, the media is only good when they have been paid to showcase the wonders of the SGR.
And then, there is a class of Kenyans who have never bought a newspaper, even if it is to read David Ndii or Constitutional Lawyer Wachira Maina, or Sunny Bindra, or Rev David Oginde, or Boniface Mwangi, or Peter Kagwanja, or whoever they fancy that speaks for their party. They yap about how ‘Githeri’ the Kenyan media is, you will think the Kenyan media is the most incompetent in the world, when this class has no working knowledge on how the media operates.
The Kenyan media is not above criticism, and often we have failed short of the public expectations. Often, I have watched Jeff Koinange or Julie Gichuru (before she retired), act so openly biased, that it was embarrassing. Often, I have seen Larry Madowo lose his head, quite unnecessarily. Often, I have seen half-baked stories, especially done by Citizen and K24, about the Fish for Sex stories from Lake Victoria, for the umpteen time and I usually feel like driving to Limuru to switch off the transmitters.
But despite everything, I still rate the Kenyan media highly. We try. Any media house, always tries. Even in the days we had KBC as the only source of news, beyond telling us what Moi had for breakfast and which church he attended, they still went out of their ways to bring us news. If you look beyond the so-called biased reporting, there is always something that you can take home.
Most of you don’t understand what it takes to run a media house.
Media business is very expensive. The Kenyan economy is very weak contrary to the forecasts that IMF and World Bank often give.
Now. Your president can’t hide his disdain for the media. When he came to power, he famously called the newspapers as only good for wrapping meat. And you all fell in love with it. That one dismissal achieved so much in blinding you with so much bias, that even when newspapers reported that NYS was haemorrhaging, so much money, you thought they were lying because newspapers only wrap meat. Even when overwhelming evidence was presented, and Ann Waiguru had to quit, you still went ahead and made her a governor of a county. But will you say the media didn’t do its job?
We exposed the scandals at the Ministry of Health, that even led to the suspension of donor money. USAID stopped funding the Ministry of Health to the tune of Sh 60 billion. We questioned the deaths of Jacob Juma, George Muchai, and everything that we could do, report and investigate, we have.
There is always room for improvement, but to tell us that we don’t do our job is being stupid. Come on man.
We have a government that pays billions to British PR firms and Cambridge Analytica. Any charismatic leader or anyone who relies so much on PR firms is a fatally flawed person, who will not take any criticism. Such a person is so thin-skinned that rather than take the criticism and improve, would rather fight back. See what Trump has been doing. Discrediting the media, even some of his biggest fans, mostly the poor white don’t understand how his tax policies will hurt them.
Back to Kenya, our economy is very weak, as I said. Very weak. For the longest time, newspapers and the TV stations got at least 20-30 of their revenue from the government. But some functionaries in the government saw to it that they can use this to arm-twist the media to have a favourable coverage, even when some Sh 100 billion (or is it 200 billion) disappears without a trace in the name of the Eurobond. That is why the media often could be tactically neutral with the government, but even when you want to hide anything from the public, you can’t look the other way when hairstylists are loaning their friends Sh 60 million from NYS without any collateral.
But anyway, the government decided to withdraw the advertising and the result is people are being sacked left, right and center from media houses. It is worse that business is so bad, so other than betting and gambling companies, it is hard for media houses to sustain themselves. You stopped buying newspapers and you want everything on the cheap.
Media schools and the education sector are chronically underfunded, even training kids to be good reporters is not an easy job, that is why the level of reporting sometimes is not up to par. But we do try given the circumstances.
If you cheer the media being subdued to submission, you will live to regret when they come for you. The government is not only targeting the opposition, they are targeting Kenyans and want Kenyans to live in blissful ignorance even as the prices of basic stuff shoot through the roof, as the government scavenges for money to pay the debt we took to sate the rapacious appetite for money for the government officials.
If you are decent human being, criticize the media objectively, point out the mistakes, the media always is ready to take criticism, and improve.
But don’t throw the bath-water out with the baby to appease your masters.