Free press critical to democracy, governance

By Lemargeroi Saruni | Thursday, May 2nd 2019 at 11:37
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As we join global community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day this week, we should recognise the strides made in Kenya. While we remember men and women who have been on the forefront in inspiring and bringing the current happenings to our sitting rooms, we would do justice to objectively re-look the path traveled by Kenyan media.

It would be prudent to state that media has been a critical ally in enhancing good governance and sustainable peace in Africa. However, journalists have worked in hostile and fragile contexts, which are highly intimidating. While in our times we would expect limited interference on Press freedom, the 2019 World Press Index paints a gloomy picture.

The report describes the climate and context in which journalists work as problematic, difficult and very serious. Despite this, the media has remained an influencer of politics and governance. Let us not lose sight of the gains made. With a progressive constitution, the Kenyan media continues to promote aspirations of Kenyans in creating opportunities for engagement and active dialogue.

In an age where increase in fake news has filled our sitting rooms, the media must remain objective. While exposing the rot in the society, it must do so with strict adherence to professionalism.

Today, with increase of smart phones and network connectivity, sharing of information has become easy. Increased use of social media, through Twitter and Facebook, has revolutionised information sharing. Unlike in the past, where the public relied on print media, the growth in social media is likely to replace the traditional method of communication. An increasing number of people using social media has led to increase in plurality of information shared in Kenya. The Press has done well in highlighting corruption cases.

As we celebrate Press freedom, we must be cognisant of unwarranted attack on media by the political class. Let us forge forward in courage in celebrating men and women often working in fragile contexts to feed the masses with informative news.

With the increase in media freedom, the Press must hold to its sacred role, which is to question systems in order to provide accurate and well researched news. Coverage of local content is a critical component to deepening democracy and stability. The freedom of independent Press will remain critical to good governance in Africa for many years to come.

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