The media industry in Kenya has come a long way from the era when one could count the number of existing enterprises on one hand. At the time, it was clear who was a journalist, and it was easy to separate wheat from the chaff. An unprecedented explosion of the industry in the digital dispensation has come with its benefits but has presented turbulence for an industry whose practitioners, in the words of author Janet Malcolm, “are supposed to be connoisseurs of certainty”.
The changing anatomy of the media industry has led to a crisis of trust. The question that lingers is how can the public demand certainty or even trust an industry in which anyone with access to a social media account can easily morph into a “a journalist” and dispense news content through their platforms? Essentially, many see this as a trend that poses a threat to the profession.
This needs to be checked as a matter of urgency. One way of ensuring this is through the accreditation of journalists so that those affiliated to the industry, and working in any platform, are held to a higher threshold of accountability.
It is important for the public to appreciate that the media enterprise has changed considerably. Not all journalists work in mainstream media houses. Some have diversified into independent content producers while others work for community media houses. With the looming redundancies in the sector, this trend will invariably rise.
It is also critical that public institutions make peace with this trajectory and cease the undue restriction of access and harassment of journalists with valid press cards simply because they do not work for mainstream media as this violates articles 34 and 35 of the Constitution that guarantees Press Freedom and Access to Information. In response to this existential threat to the industry and in keeping with its mandate, the Media Council of Kenya has been working with relevant stakeholders to ensure journalists and media practitioners uphold professionalism.
Accreditation helps in professionalising the industry, ensuring that those with press cards get access to events and enhances the protection and safety of journalists and media practitioners in the performance of their duties.
Accreditation is equally critical as media workers can easily access information from duty bearers on matters of national interest. Those with valid press cards also have access to grants and trainings. Students with press cards can apply for the MCK internship programme.
As we start the 2023 accreditation cycle, it is important to encourage those actively practicing in media or working in related sectors to renew or apply for accreditation so as to get valid press cards. Newly established media houses in electronic, print and digital space are also encouraged to register for their journalists to be accredited.
The Council has leveraged technology to bring services to our stakeholders and since the launch of our accreditation portal, we have seen an increase in the number of journalists and media practitioners seeking press cards.
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Mr Omwoyo is the CEO of the Media Council of Kenya. [email protected]