In a momentous stride toward upholding the integrity and independence of media within the East African Community, a new regional initiative has emerged on the horizon. Known as the East Africa Press Councils (EAPC), this umbrella organization has united media regulatory authorities from the vast East African region, with a shared mission to foster free, accountable, professional, and independent media.
The EAPC is the brainchild of media and press councils from the East African Community (EAC) Partner States, and it envisions a media landscape founded on the principles of democracy, social justice, and respect for human rights across East Africa’s expansive territory. Peter Mathuki, the Secretary General of the EAC, underscored the indispensable role played by independent and professional journalism within a democratic society. Without it, the freedom of expression becomes precarious, and the fundamental rights of society’s members hang in the balance.
Dr. Mathuki emphasized the significance of a vibrant media sector in promoting social justice, the rule of law, accountability, equality, and the protection of human rights. He highlighted the critical role that independent and professional journalism plays in upholding these values. When media is unable to function independently and professionally, investigative journalism deteriorates, and society loses its ability to hold leaders accountable and demand their rightful entitlements, particularly vulnerable populations like women and youth.
The Secretary-General stressed that effective media regulation should empower independent media to serve the public interest without strangling it with excessive control and overregulation. He also emphasized the role of media in the East African integration process, asserting that it should be the messenger to convey the integration message to grassroots communities, the true owners of this ambitious endeavour.
In his address, Mohbare Matinyi, the Director of Information Services and Government Spokesman of Tanzania urged the media to harness the power of technology to inform and educate people on a wide array of critical issues, ranging from cultural matters to politics and economics. He cautioned against the misuse of digital media for self-serving interests and underscored the importance of responsible and ethical journalism.
Kajubi Mukajanga, the Chairperson of the EAPC and Executive Director of the Media Council of Tanzania, articulated the council’s commitment to strengthening and promoting independent media regulatory bodies in East Africa. He explained that this commitment encompasses raising awareness and advocating for self-regulation through Press and Media Councils, all while encouraging media diversity and pluralism.
David Omwoyo, the EAPC Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Media Council of Kenya, underscored the need for uniform media standards across the entire EAC region to facilitate consistent growth within the media industry and enhance its role as a watchdog.
Emmanuel Mugisha, the EAPC Treasurer and Executive Secretary of the Rwanda Media Commission shed light on Rwanda’s efforts to promote media literacy and empower the media to contribute effectively to personal growth and sustainable development. He highlighted the importance of African countries telling their own stories and countering negative images created by Western media.
The establishment of the East Africa Press Councils marks a significant leap toward fostering an independent, accountable, and professional media landscape in East Africa. The EAPC is poised to ensure media standards remain consistent across the region while nurturing collaborative efforts to safeguard media freedom and further the goals of the East African Community.
By Iman Masud