I am pleased to join you at this Annual Media Summit, whose main focus is on the media and H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda. I am also pleased to note that the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan for the Media Council of Kenya will be launched at this summit.
Having worked in the media before, I feel at home amongst this great gathering and can also attest that my experience in the media has contributed immensely to my career in the public service.
I am informed that the Summit has lined up a number of events including trainings for journalists; media debate; and conference with the culmination being the 7th Annual Journalism Excellence Award, that recognizes journalists who have exceled in their work.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Articles 34 35 of our Constitution gives the media special and extensive protection in order to enjoy freedom and independence. The Constitution states that, “the state shall not-(a) exercise control over or interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of information by any medium; (b) penalize any person for any opinion or view or the content of any broadcast, publication or dissemination”.
I want to affirm the government’s commitment to protecting this freedom as it recognizes the critical role of the media in steering the country’s socio-political and economic development. We count on the media as a strong partner in educating and informing the public on topical issues and calling for their support.
The Government fully appreciates the value of having a vibrant and media industry and the economy in general.
The Kenya Vision 2030 identifies access to information as a key enabler towards attaining wealth creation, social welfare and international competitiveness. Further, it identifies information technology as one of the key facilitators to deliver the 10% annual economic growth rate envisaged under the economic pillar. To achieve this transformation, it is important for the media to be innovative, focused, independent and accountable.
The Access to Information Act 2016 is intended to actualize the provisions of Article 35 of the Bill rights of the Constitution of Kenya. Among other things, the Act obliges public institutions such as the Media Council of Kenya to proactively disclose information to the public.
While the role of the Government is to provide an enabling policy and legislative environment to grow the media sector, we also recognize that there is need for media development to be integrated within our overall development agenda – currently, the Big Four Agenda.
Under the Agenda, the Government plans to create 1.3 million manufacturing jobs and achieve a 100% health coverage for every Kenyan by 2022. Additionally, 500,000 affordable houses will be constructed, and technology will be deployed to expand food production and enhance the whole value chain from farm to produce to market. These ambitious targets cannot be achieved without support from the media to communicate how Big Four Agenda will impact citizens, corporates and other partners both locally and internationally. I encourage the media to support the Government by provoking debates aimed at building consensus so that citizens can appreciate the Agenda’s full benefits and impacts in their day to day lives.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to talk briefly on the launch of the MCKs Strategic Plan. This Strategic Plan details the immediate, mid and long-term objectives of the Media Council of Kenya between 2019 and 2023 within the context of the Council’s functions as determined in the Media Council Act, 2013. At its core, is the development of a comprehensive media policy that details media regulation and development in Kenya, positioning the MCK as the regulator for the industry in the country.
I am informed that the Strategic Plan is a product of extensive open discussions within the Council, the Complaints Commission and the stakeholders, whose valuable and insightful feedback has been aptly incorporated. This Plan will provide a road map towards improved institutional effectiveness and efficiency in Kenya’s fast-paced media environment.
I wish to re-affirm the Ministry’s commitment to supporting the MCK in the implementation of the Plan. I am happy to note that the Plan highlights the current global, regional and national challenges that face Kenya’s media sector including the freedom of speech, low levels of media development, slow economic growth, terrorism, insecurity and the unpredictable weather patterns.
Additionally, the blue print touches regional political instability and conflicts, inadequate national cohesiveness, transition to the devolved system of government, gender gaps, expanding wage bill and high levels of youth unemployment. The Plan also provides highlights of the Second Medium Term Plan (MTP III) of Kenya Vision 2030 and the national Big Four Agenda including priorities in other enablers’ economic, social and political pillars.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Looking at the history of the media in Kenya, we appreciate the big role it has played in the growth of democracy, rule of law and good governance. The media has had a patriotic objective such the prerogative to report on the freedom of the Kenyan Spirit, the promotion of justice and the uplifting of the national aspiration to which our national emblems remind us.
As you may be aware, currently, there are 60 TV stations and more than 179 FM stations licensed in Kenya and numerous other newspapers and magazines that are not registered. This demonstrates the vibrancy of our media that is almost second to none in the sub-Saharan Africa.
You will agree with me that media wields immense power and influence that cannot be taken for granted. In exercise of this power, there are and should be safeguards within which it acts and operates.
It is the duty of the media to exercise responsible journalism in the process of proving information to the public. The media is a corporate citizen, with duties and obligations similar to those of an ordinary citizen and perhaps much more. Salient among these is to represent issues and facts in a manner that creates positive perception about the state of affairs of our country. Media should not be used as a tool to encourage tribalism and polarize the society. Instead, it should be used to celebrate our rich and vibrant cultural diversity and encourage harmonious coexistence.
It is important for the media to give hope and confidence to businesses and ordinary citizens working hard working to make a difference in our society. This not to say that, the media, should turn a blind eye on bad governance. Speaking truth to power and holding those in authority accountable is a divine calling of the fourth estate.
Kenyans expect the media to help them promote transparency and good governance to spur development.
We are also not blind to challenges facing the media, including poor welfare, unfriendly working environment, and safety concerns. These issues need attention. Similarly, incidences of corruption in media must be addressed to promote trust. We need to find ways where the Media Council of Kenya and other players join hands to fight this vice. We must work to restore this credibility and trust from people if we are to remain true champions of freedom. Some of our media stories are deficient of facts, are biased and lack objectivity. Cases of defamation against the media are on the increase. This is a concern to the Government.
As I conclude, I call on the Council to exercise its watchdog role judiciously to safeguard the rights and privileges of both the practitioners and the citizens. This puts Council in the unenviable position of playing arbiter in often times delicate situations that demand wisdom and tact in order to balance competing interests.
With those remarks, it is now my pleasure to declare the Annual Media Summit officially opened, and the new Media Council of Kenya Strategic Plan 2018-2022 officially launched.