BWIRE: Ongoing Editors Convention a breath of fresh air

BWIRE: Ongoing Editors Convention a breath of fresh air
Editors at the Annual Editors' Convention summit in Nairobi. PHOTO| COURTESY

Media in Kenya as in the rest of the world is grappling with professional challenges as a result of the dwindling audiences and revenue, technological developments and related disruptions and professional hurdles especially brought about by declining democratic tendencies from the economic and political class.

The challenges have been very frustrating to the journalists, especially senior editors and managers in the industry, who seem to receive bashing from all and sundry while acknowledging the importance of feedback and fair criticism.

Editors and media managers are aware that these developments on the media landscape, especially the reality of technological shifts, challenges on media freedom, including safety of journalists and access to information require better prepared and innovative journalists who are committed to professional excellence.

It’s thus very encouraging that senior editors from Kenya through their umbrella organization, the Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) in responding to these challenges has organized the inaugural ANNUAL EDITORS’ CONVENTION summit in Nairobi today bringing together journalists, editors, media owners, national leaders and other stakeholders to critically interrogate the role of media in Kenya’s development and democratic agenda.

The convention is guided by the Windhoek Declaration that envisaged a press liberated from government, political or economic control and by extension stood against monopolies in the media industry, and defended the widest possible distribution of media.

That media freedom in anchored and protected in the most progressive Bills of Rights globally is not in contention. Articles 33, 34 and 35, some of which have been actualized through the Media Council Act 2013, KICA 2013 and Freedom of Information Act 2016 set the stage for the actualization of the Windhoek Declaration.

The convention is an acknowledgement by the editors the challenges call for awakening amongst journalist to reevaluate and improve media professionalism and accountability within the industry and above all, improve the working environment for media practitioners in the country.

The media must work towards creating solidarity and a common agenda for the media fraternity in the country to not only reduce the divisions in the sector, but ensure that media issues are part of the national agenda and the a conducive environment is created for the media to play its role in national development unhindered.

It’s time journalists separated the commercial interests of their employers/media owners and the professional ethics for which they were trained on. Journalists while serving the interests of employers also work on ensuring and holding themselves to the professional standards that differentiate them from media workers. This cannot be achieved within the existing structures in the industry.

We need unity amongst journalists Unions, associations and the like to work joint efforts to advocate for press freedom. Instead of editors and the media owners association worrying too much about their balance sheets, they should support each of unifying journalists and the creation of structures that enhance media professionalism, accountability and welfare.

In addition to the external interferences that pose a challenge to independent media, lack of work ethics, professionalism or integrity by some journalists with the notion that reporters and editors solicit for bribes to write great stories has greatly affect journalists’ credibility. There are in house editorial policies that derail proper channeling of information.

The issue of poor pay and working conditions has also undermined independence of the media as journalists, easily get compromised and pursue stories guided by individual personal interests rather than public interest. That sources take advantage to interfere with media independence is known.

Harassment of the media by County Government agents and political thugs presents the biggest challenge to media independence and content distribution in Kenya. A number of journalists have been targeted for attacks, physically assaulted by security officers and political thugs, which is against the Windhoek Declaration.

The current debates and confusion in the manner and contents of the laws relating to media in the country is a direct response to a quest by stakeholders for a media system that will strengthen media freedom, enhance independence, build the capacity of the media to set agenda representing public interest and establish a regulatory framework that cultivates professionalism accountability.

Media sector has not been streamlined in the major development policies of the country thus missing out on a sector very crucial to national development.

All the best Churchill Otieno, KEG and team. Looking at the speakers and their profiles for the convention, its refreshing that Kenya has amongt the best journalists in the region and we are looking forward to hearing practical ways of improving the profession.

The Writer works at the Media Council of Kenya as the Programmes Manager and a Journalists safety Trainer. [email protected]

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