By James Macharia
As Kenya joined other countries across the globe to celebrate 30th World Press Freedom Day, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi called upon Media Owners to pay journalists well.
Speaking as the Guest of Honour during the ceremony at a Nairobi Hotel on Monday attended by officials from Communications Authority of Kenya, Media Council of Kenya, Communications Regulatory Authority amongst some media personnel, Muturi said that some journalists risk even their lives while covering serious issues and deserve a good remuneration.
“For this conversation to make sense, today is my day to ask the media owners in this country to pay our children- their reporters and news crew very well. They deserve it,” said the Speaker.
He said that before media organizations can think of demanding integrity and other codes of conduct from journalists, they should cater for their financial needs first.
He also noted that Media, for long has perpetuated bribery across the country once they fail to look into the needs of journalists, and hence they assign them stories, where in some cases the reporters have to travel long distances to get into the heart of those stories.
Muturi alluded to Purity Mwambia’s case, a Citizen Tv investigative reporter who recently shocked many with a story she did.
Mwambia’s story elicited mixed reactions which brought to the fore how rogue police officers who leased out riffles and firearms and even uniforms to gangsters, who later used them to commit serious crimes and even brutal killings to amass wealth.
Muturi said that such journalists need to be paid well.
However, he urged journalists to use legal and ethical means to obtain information for the good of public.
He also called upon columnists to hold leaders in public offices accountable on behalf of the public, and cultivate a habit of criticizing them whenever they go astray.
“As the fourth Estate, you need to hold all of us in public office accountable on behalf of the people. You tell us whenever you think we are betraying the country; you celebrate us when we do something great, and you also set the agenda for is,” he said.
The speaker, in addition asked journalists to make use of articles 33, 34 and 35 of the Kenyan 2010 constitution which clearly articulates the freedom of journalists.
He said that the parliament is striving to come up with other laws to oversee the interests of journalists and guarantee them a conducive working environment.
Meanwhile, lack of accountability against perpetrators of attacks against journalists remains a major concern in the Country.
According to ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, least 51 cases of attacks against individual journalists were recorded between May 2020 and April 2021 a slight drop from the 59 cases recorded between May 2019 and April 2020.
Regional Director Mugambi Kiai says the trend is unacceptable and called on authorities to enhance protection for journalists across the Country.
“ARTICLE 19 EA documented attacks varying from phone call threats, intimidation, and harassment both online and offline, physical assaults, invasion of a media house and in extreme cases, killing. Journalists blamed police officers in majority of these attacks,” Kiai said.
According to Kiai, Journalists decried facing challenges stemming from a lack of access to information on the status of their case, or any reports by authorities regarding investigations, after follow up by victims or colleagues to the victims.
“Journalists told ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa during the interviews in March 2021 that these attacks had forced some of them into self-censorship, or forced exile due to the perception that those attacking journalist enjoy impunity, especially state actors,” he said.
Kiai said that authorities must ensure protection of all journalists, by carrying out thorough, impartial and credible investigations in all cases of attacks against journalists.
He added that that should include providing information on the progress of such cases.
“If the authorities are indeed carrying out such investigations, providing information on investigations it will help counter the perception that nothing is being done.” He asked.