As countries accelerate towards the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGSs), the media‘s role both as an agenda setter, a beneficiary and a key partner will come under focus.
As an agenda setter, the media have the ability to monitor progress, highlight gaps and suggest solutions to those gaps. Media coverage of SDGs influences resource allocation, prioritisation of the goals that are lagging while giving a scorecard on the steps being made towards Vision 2030.
The media, just like other sectors in the economy are smarting from the Covid-19 pandemic with numerous economic and sustainability challenges to overcome. Yet, other stakeholders in the SDGs spectrum will be looking up to the Fourth Estate to set the agenda, educate, inform and generally lead the conversation on the 17 goals.
During the 9th session of the UN high level political forum on SDGS last year, Kenya committed to engage an integrated approach to development interventions in realisation and considering the inter-linkages and integrated nature of SDGs.
The acceleration strategy that was developed and adopted in June 2022 provides a roadmap to accelerate progress at both the national and county levels with focus on those SDGs currently seen as unlikely to be achieved by 2030.
Among the key components of acceleration is an advocacy and awareness creation on SDGs. To strengthen the institutional framework on implementation of SDGs, the media were among the institutions that were brought on board under the Interagency Technical Working Groups to strengthen coordination on implementation.
An awards scheme to recognise top performers on the implementation of SDGs including media is in place.
To facilitate this year’s awards (media category) the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and The National Treasury put out a call for entries of stories on SDGs published by media houses and freelance journalists.
An analysis of the entries by judges showed that most of them were from small media houses based outside Nairobi and very few from the leading national media houses.
Many entries, especially those submitted by freelance journalists, were opinion pieces published in the national newspapers. Such stories tended to feature personal opinion on suggestions of what ought to be done as opposed to stories with credible, authoritative and expert sources prescribing workable solutions.
Many entries only highlighted challenges without offering solutions, thus exposing a gap in the media fraternity, and the need for capacity-building to train journalists on the need to fully engage in development journalism, highlight challenges and offer practical solutions.
The situation indicates that there is an opportunity to build the capacity of journalists to tell the SDGs’ story. MCK’s Strategic Plan integrates SDGs implementation activities and is committed to continue support mainly through its media development component.
Mr Omwoyo is the CEO, Media Council of Kenya. firstname.lastname@example.org