Opinion divided on Chiloba's April 9 ultimatum for journalists joining politics

Communications Authority of Kenya Director General Ezra Chiloba. [Courtesy, Standard]

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) has asked journalists seeking electives posts to quit active media practice by April 9.

CAK Director-General Ezra Chiloba also wants media houses to uphold fair coverage and opportunities to political parties and candidates, while ensuring broadcasting platforms are not misused to incite people to violence. In a statement, Chiloba urged licensed media houses to comply with his directive, which he said is anchored in law.

The calls by Chiloba however come as Media Council also made a similar appeal to media persons interested in active politics to relinquish their positions.

But journalists are faulting the quit order, saying it lacks merit since there is no evidence of conflict of interest as suggested by the communication authority and media council.

Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) chairman Oloo Janak told the two regulators to stop exerting undue pressure on journalists, arguing that the scribes should not be criminalised for joining politics.

"We have canvased this matter in various forums and arrived at the conclusion that journalists who have expressed interest in politics shouldn't be forced to exit," said Mr Janak.

He claimed the notion that the scribes would use their positions to influence content in their favour was farfetched since in media houses, stories push through several lawyers of checks for scrutiny.

However, citing conflict of interest, MCK Chief Executive David Omwoyo disclosed that some journalists, media practitioners and enterprises had not complied to clause 3, 4, and 5 of the Code of Conduct for Practice of Journalism in Kenya established under the Media Council Act, 2013. “The MCK has noted with concern possible violation of the Act, and hereby advises them to refrain from violating the provisions of the law,” said Mr Omwoyo, threatening to take action.

The clause wants journalists and media practitioners to discharge duties with utmost professionalism, independence, integrity and accountability without conflict of interest.

Kenya Editors Guild president Churchill Otieno said: "We note the keen interest taken by government agencies on journalism. The executive council of the Editors' Guild is looking into the matter and will advise on the best way forward."