Why William Ruto wants his Cabinet Ministers in media

President William Ruto Chairs Cabinet Meeting at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries have been instructed to ensure government projects implemented under them are carried in mainstream media at least once a week.

Correspondence from the office of Prime Cabinet  Secretary Musalia Mudavadi to Secretary to the Cabinet Mercy Wanjau, reveals the irony of a government that has loathed mainstream media, but wants to use it to keep in touch with its citizenry.

The circular drafted by Mudavadi's Chief of Staff Joseph Busiega, says government projects are poorly understood due to the failure by ministry officials to engage the media. "One contributing factor to the negative publicity surrounding the National Government was the reluctance of Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries to engage with the media," it reads in part.

The circular dated February 26, 2024 adds: "Consequently, despite the administration's diligent execution of numerous beneficial projects, the general public remained unaware of these successes."

The statement comes a few days after President William Ruto met Cabinet members, PSs and the Presidential Advisory Team in Naivasha.

During the meeting, Ruto also ridiculed MPs and other government officials for not following media conversations on government projects and plans.

"...that you have not been told? You want to be told by who? Don't you read newspapers? When I talk you think it is just hot air, or don't you understand English?" posed the President.

He was responding claims of lack of information about government projects and plans, among them, the housing project.

In the correspondence from Mudavadi's office, all CSs and PSs are directed to be more focused on communication and to generate at least one story each weekly about their respective ministries and state departments, that could be published.

They are also expected to honour media interviews or communicate government plans and programmes on a weekly basis. The directives, however, fly in the face of recent decision to limit government advertisements to only one outlet, locking out the country’s oldest and widely circulating dailies.

Information and Communication Technology PS Edward Kisiang'ani directed state agencies and ministries to ensure all adverts other than those running in MyGov be placed in one newspaper.

The move has been understood to mean that readers of The Standard, Daily Nation and The People Daily will have no access of government advertisements of jobs, tenders and other important announcements such as appointments and statutory notices.

The decision has widely been seen as a move to cripple the media as revenue from advertising funds operations of media houses. The President however expects communication on government projects from the Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries to have a wider reach and create awareness on what his administration is doing.

"A crucial issue that the President spoke of and which we request you capture in the communique related to communication. He highlighted that one contributing factors to negative publicity surrounding the national government was reluctance by Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries to engage with the media," reads the circular.

President Ruto's government has repeatedly accused Kenya’s media outlets of bias against him during the campaign for the 2022 elections.