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Kenyan journalists serve 10 demands to Ruto's government

A report on press freedom in Kenya was launched on Tuesday with journalists issuing 10 demands to the government.

Former Kenya Editors Guild chairperson Linus Kaikai, KPJA chair Duncan Khaemba, Daily Nation Executive Editor Pamella Sittoni and KUJ Secretary-General Eric Oduor | Photos: Muturi Kanini

Kenyan journalists on Tuesday hit President William Ruto's government with 10 demands, in the pursuit of press freedom in the country.

Decrying overregulation and increasing layoffs of professionals in the field, journalists insisted that the 10 conditions would be key in ensuring professionalism and ethical conduct of media practice for the common good of society.

"We recognize that the Kenyan media industry is facing global but also specific challenges based on factors obtained within the local national environment.

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"There are about 22 different laws that are often used against the media and journalists whenever powerful forces, including State agents, want to silence the Fourth Estate. We raise this as a red flag and call on the Government to move with speed and work with the media sector to harmonize the media regulatory regime in Kenya to promote a professional, free, and independent media," Kenya Union of Journalists Secretary-General Eric Oduor stated.

The demands were developed following a survey commissioned by the Kenya Media Sector Working Group (KMSWG) to assess the state of media freedom in Kenya.

Recent layoffs were among the key observations which KMSWG noted was impeding freedom of the press in Kenya.

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"In September 2022, the Standard Media Group announced mass firings citing the decrease in revenue. Media reports indicated that the said media house was set to lay off over 200 employees, BBC also announced a mass layoff with over 382 journalists set to be released.

"In a notice dated November 30, 2022, the Nation Media Group indicated that it was in the process of accelerating business transformation and as such was restructuring its human resource capacity," the report found.

Kenya Editors Guild CEO Rosalia Omungo added: "The industry has witnessed massive lay-offs of experienced and skilled journalists which has left newsrooms bleeding with reduced workforce. This has not only affected newsrooms, but poses great danger to the growth and sustainability of the media industry," the survey found.

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  1. The state should develop a public advertising law with media industry participation to regulate the operations of the Government Advertising Agency and guarantee a fair and definite allocation of resources towards advertising in community and other emerging media houses in the regions/counties to promote plurality and diversity; This should include restraint on its use to gag the media. 
  2. Repeal the following sections in the Penal Code 40 (1); 66; 66A; 67; 96; 194-200; touching on different issues but unduly limiting freedom of the media.  
  3. Review the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act to make KBC a public service media 
  4. Establish a media diversity and sustainability fund with input/consultation with the media industry.
  5. Repeal provisions of the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Act that gives the Communication Authority regulatory functions over Broadcast content, creating an unnecessary overlap.
  6. Amend the Films and Stage Plays Act to exclude media enterprises from the jurisdiction of the Kenya Films Classification Board. 
  7. Repeal the Books and Newspapers Act 
  8. Review relevant laws to ensure that the overall responsibility of running a news media enterprise shall lie with a qualified, publicly accountable, professional journalist. 
  9. Amend the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act in support of freedom of expression and self-regulation;
  10. That the government and all regulatory bodies exercise a judicious and consultative approach to the regulation of the media industry and respect the role of stakeholders to promote the rule of law and the constitutional underpinnings of press freedom. 

The declaration was signed by 17 journalist organisations.

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