A free Press, said Albert Camus, can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the Press will never be anything but bad.
Kenya joined the rest of the world in marking the World Press Freedom Day. This is a day that the United Nations General Assembly, acting on the recommendations of Unesco, proclaimed in 1963 in Windhoek, Namibia. The 2014 celebration is anchored on three themes: the safety of journalists; the rule of law; and the sustainability and integrity of journalism.
In Kenya, there is so much for the Fourth Estate to celebrate, yet there lurks unending fear of dark forces rolling back the achievements made so far. More than ever before, the led are holding their leaders to account for decisions they make while in service. A properly curious Press has made that possible. The Kenya Editors Guild has decried constant threats and intimidation by the State. It is not enough for the Executive to issue statements about the Government’s commitment to supporting Press freedom. Government needs to match words with deeds. And one way of doing that is enabling journalists to access information through enactment of the Freedom of Information Act, in compliance with Article 35 of the Constitution.
Lack of information and the secrecy that surrounds Government dealings is one reason why sometimes journalists get it wrong. When journalists are left to guesswork, there is bound to be distortions of facts and misrepresentation. The Government needs to appreciate the role the Press plays in informing and educating the public. As the Fourth Estate, the Press plays a critical role in holding the feet of the other arms of Government to the fire and celebrating the achievements of those in Government. It works for the common good. Governments are used to mischief and would like to sweep under the carpet acts of misdemeanor by those in its ranks. A Press working in a freer environment will no doubt be a force of good for all.