Major dailies denied State advertisements

The Government has dealt a mortal blow to independent print media after it directed all its agencies and ministries not to place advertisements in them for the next two years.

Consequently, the government prohibited any placement of advertisements in the country’s oldest and widely circulating dailies, save for only one publication, The Star.

In an unprecedented move, Information and Communication Technology Principal Secretary Edward Kisiangani on Tuesday directed all state agencies and ministries to ensure that all adverts other than those running in MyGov be placed in The Star.

This means that the readers of The Standard, Daily Nation and The People Daily will have no access of any government advertisements of jobs, tenders and other important announcements such as appointments and statutory notices.

The PS said that last year MyGov was regularly printed and circulated by The Standard, Daily Nation, The Star and The People Daily.

This was under a contractual arrangement signed between the media houses and the government. The contracts, however, expired in December, he said. 

“Prior to the expiry of the contracts, the Ministry floated a new tender for public sector advertisement. After presenting the lowest and most sustainable bid, Convergence Media (publishers of The Star newspaper) won the tender to take up the new contract,” read the circular signed by Kisiang’ani.

“The terms of this contract, he stated restrict print advertisements emanating from all public institutions, save for the counties, to MyGov. Any requests for exemptions to publish advertisements outside MyGov on a day other than Tuesday (when My Gov is published) will be directed to The Star newspaper upon authorisation by this office,” he stated.

The PS said the ministry will not grant any requests by MDAs to place any print advertisement on any other platform.

However, the directive has received criticism with Kenya Union of Journalists Secretary General Eric Oduor saying the government is promoting a monopoly by denying other media houses the opportunity to distribute the government’s paper and carry its advertisements.

“While I contend that the media owners ought to have raised the alarm early as opposed to this time when the tender is floated, the KUJ is of the view that government ministries and State agencies should advertise in media houses of their choice instead of bullying them to create a monopoly,” he said.

“I wish to remind Kisiang’ani that he is a creation of the very media that he is now muzzling. The government must rescind the decision which to us is a move to take us to the dark days,” he said.

 Media Council of Kenya Chief Executive Officer David Omwoyo said they do not regulate government decisions on the model through which it would advertise.

“It is not in our purview to regulate government agencies on how they channel their communication to the public,” he told The Standard on phone when reached for a comment.

Separately, Kenya Correspondents Association said the directive beat the policy of advertising with at least two main newspapers of wide circulation, saying the whole thing was suspicious.

“The move exposes the government’s lack of commitment to promote free media. The aim is meant to force media houses to toe the line and stakeholders must wake up and say no,” said KCA Central Kenya regional coordinator Stephen Munyiri said. 

He wondered why taxpayers’ money was being channeled to one media house as opposed to different players in the sector calling on the government to relook the issue.

Lawyer Sigei Bett faulted the decision saying the directive is against the consumer protection law as it does not give an even playing ground for all stakeholders.

“The government seems to have given a favour to one media house to the exclusion of the rest without any justifiable reason,” said Bett.

He noted that even if the directive was presidential then it ought to have been subjected to public scrutiny and subjected to public participation.

Governance expert Prof Gitile Naituli said the move was aimed at curtailing the media and is a culmination of efforts to silence the voice of the voiceless.

“The fact is that the government is one of the main stakeholders that fund the media through advertisements, which appear daily in more than three newspapers as the law states. The directives are coming at a time the media has been portrayed as an enemy of the State, it leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.

 Nakuru medic and public interest crusader Dr Magare Gikenyi said the decision was unfair and against the rules of competition.

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