Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Innovation & Youth Affairs-Joe Mucheru
Principal Secretary, State Department of Broadcasting & Telecommunication, Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs – Ms Esther Koimett
President, World Association of Press Councils – Dr Sule Aker
Chief Executive Officer, Media Council of Kenya – David Omwoyo
Secretary-General, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO – Dr Evangeline Njoka
Director General Communication Authority of Kenya, Ezra Chiloba
Ms Ito Misako,
Delegates, colleagues, all protocols observed, good morning.
I am honoured to be here this morning to address a subject that is close to my heart both as a journalist and a press freedom champion.
We all agree that seeking, receiving and imparting information is a prerequisite for healthy and sustainable democracies. However, in many nations, government limitations, censorship, abuse, harassment, confinement and death still confront journalists on a daily basis.
Press freedom day is thus a day of great significance in our calendar where we honour the media fraternity for their role in ensuring an informed public for accountability and transparency dialogue. In the pursuit of truth and justice, many journalists have sacrificed their lives and freedom and today we honour them.
In the recent past, the industry has gone through challenging times. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still remain prevalent in our profession. A large number of journalists who lost jobs due to shrinking revenue are yet to find their way back. Many of those forced to take pay cuts to date are yet to start receiving full salaries. Without decent salaries and adequate revenue, it is difficult for the media to remain objective and hence have a direct impact on freedom of the press.
Even before the pandemic deflated the industry, we were struggling to navigate the rapidly-evolving information environment. We were still trying to figure out or at least strategize on ways of conforming to the challenges and opportunities presented by these technological advancements. Just like the way the printing press revolutionized communication, the Internet and social media have changed the face of journalism forever.
Whereas there is an appreciation for creativity in content production and opportunities for distribution, the bitter truth is that the digital era has taken away a considerably huge chunk of our privileges. It has split our audiences and our influence. It has also taken away our pride in being the first to break news. It has made the media space more interactive, accessible and inclusive allowing everyone to become a content producer. It has become the space where content from the legacy media is reproduced.
On the flip side, the online space has also been used to threaten journalists to interfere with their independence. It has also increased the surveillance of journalists. Many industry players are still grappling with how to navigate the fast-changing and overwhelming digital landscape of misinformation and disinformation.
Looking at the massive digital disruption,will the legacy media survive this intrusion and for how long?
It is my hope that through this summit, we will address all these under the theme of Journalism under digital siege because we have seen in the past that every new advancement in the journalism industry has led to a decline in one form of media consumption and an increase in consumption of another.
I believe that the future of journalism depends on our ability to become innovative and our quest to be a source of reliable information. Additionally, we should strive to uphold journalism anchored on ethics, truth and high standards of professionalism.
To do this, a shift in how we do our work is needed. First, we need to invest in fact-checking desks to fight misinformation and disinformation as a step forward to winning the public trust and our audiences. Our versatility to utilize the space, and our creativity in producing quality and unique content perhaps are also other considerations for the industry.
As we grapple with dealing with the digital era and its challenges, we should also examine ourselves internally to help us identify the real threats to press freedom.
At the Association of Media Women in Kenya, we have worked to advance digital literacy to journalists in order to capitalize on the diverse opportunities available but also protect themselves online. Our attention has been drawn to the impunity meted on journalists in form of sexual harassment. According to a study by Women in News, 56% of Kenyan journalists have faced verbal and physical harassment in the workplace. Though in denial, the truth is that sexual harassment in the media is a culture that must be fought to ensure journalists especially female journalists work in a safe environment.
As we navigate through the shifting sands, I want to leave you with questions to ponder.
What is the biggest threat to journalism in Kenya? Or what is more likely to kill journalism in Kenya? Is it the law/ the government? Is it media owners? Editors or Journalists themselves? Advertisers? Or is it technology? Corruption?
You can find the full video on our YouTube Channel here: https://youtu.be/JK4lvM1sN6Q