Verbal attacks against journalists unwarranted

A group of journalists wait to be addressed by a section of Jubilee Party MPs at the Nairobi Serena hotel on February 13, 2023. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

There is nothing wrong with anyone getting annoyed with journalists and the media generally. It is the nature of journalism to rub (some) people the wrong way and, for that reason, people are bound to get annoyed. In fact, journalism would lose relevance if it made everybody happy.

You cannot expect, for instance, people whose corrupt ways have been exposed by journalists to be happy with the media. Journalists are always wary whenever they are showered with praises, especially by the government.

And just like in any other field, the Kenyan mainstream media is not full of angels. There are a few rotten apples within the profession who will do the exact opposite of what the profession dictates for selfish reasons; some are biased in favour of certain political camps or demand pecuniary favours in order to skew the story. Such journalists, needless to say, also annoy people.

But majority of journalists stick to their professional calling and are always determined to do what is right. However, we must admit that even the most professional and well-intentioned journalists and media houses make mistakes once in while.

That said, is important for people who feel aggrieved to react in a manner that does not tarnish the entire media industry as was the case with Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua tirade last week.

Mr Gachagua, who has been in the news lately over the remarks he made in Kericho to the effect that the government has majority and minority shareholders, did what many politicians do - he appeared to demonise all journalists.

the deputy president accused journalists, without offering an iota of proof, of being against him and of allegedly being bankrolled by some people to taint his good name.

Uncalled for broadsides like these, coming from prominent leaders like Mr Gachagua, who enjoy a huge following, have the unfortunate effect of portraying journalists as semi-literate vindictive people who are easy to manipulate with money.

It's the same attitude that former president Uhuru Kenyatta had when he derisively said "gazeti ni ya kufunga nyama" (newspapers are only good for wrapping meat).

Such statements are not only an insult to the media fraternity - well educated men and women who work hard every day to ensure Kenyans are informed of what is going on within and without the country - but also to democracy. No country can claim to be democratic without a well-functioning, free media.

Kenya is not short of avenues where people who feel aggrieved by media can seek recourse.

They can complain to the media houses themselves, they can lodge complaints with the Media Council of Kenya or the Media Complaints Commission or even go to court.

Politicians understand understand the law well and therefore should serve as a good example on what people who feel offended by the media should do within the law instead of making statements that make media houses to look like a den of outlaws.