ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru’s apparent don’t care attitude on the recent TV switch-off by the government leaves a lot to be desired. Before MPs on Friday, the CS was categorical that the January 30 switch-off was sanctioned by the Interior ministry over national security concerns.
He said accusations by stakeholders directed at his docket are misdirected. Mucheru had twice ignored summons by the Senate, only to appear before a parliamentary committee. Some senators see his no-show as spiteful.
However, under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights where media freedom and access to information are sacrosanct, several concerns arise from Mucheru’s defence of the gag orders.
To observers, his ministry now appears an appendage of the Interior docket, and may have little or no input on crucial government decisions touching on the media industry, going forward. Again, if there were sufficient grounds to deny more than 70 per cent of Kenyans their rights to information because NASA leader Raila Odinga was being ‘sworn-in’, why has Mucheru not initiated discussions with media house to thrash out the ‘sticky’ issues in retrospect?
There’s every reason to doubt Mucheru’s assurance that the Jubilee government respects press freedom. He has to do more to demonstrate this unproven commitment. In less-progressive countries, national security is the excuse government uses whenever it has scores to settle with the media. Journalists are key players in nation building and no one can wish away that role.