Monday, January 19, 2009

The day Mutua was booed....

Love him, hate him, Ezekiel Mutua is a tough guy. He stands up to people as they boo him and make him feel belittled.

As the Director of Public Information at the Ministry of Information and Communication, Mutua had a tough task of defending the government in the debate over the Kenya Communications Act, which has now been overshadowed by controversial media clauses.

After serious arguments between the panelists, who included deputy speaker Farah Maalim and lawyer Mbugua Mureithi, Mutua stood to speak to an already charged crowd, seemingly not ready to listen.

"It is assumed that when you join government you become stupid; what happened to all the wisdom of private sector?" Mutua asked, rhetorically I guess, though the participants answered to the affirmative.

Perhaps the crowd was hostile and intolerant because Mutua was revealing facts that no one was willing to embrace.

For instance, he said that the controversial section Section 88 has been there for 11 years and that is why it is not part of the amendments. He asked; what has changed? and people booed and heckled.

He further went on to say that the recent efforts in the name of freedom is calculated to give the big boys and media owners freedom to make money and take home between 1.8 to 2.4 million per month while the foot soldiers languish with rubbish wages.

For that comment, the participants sought to know how much he earns as director, which reminded me of Maina Kiai. He never answered so we did not get to know.

Next, Mutua cjallenged media owners to publish their editorial policies, so that the public can know for instance, if a media house is pro government or pro opposition, then is will be easier to tell.

For that, the booing grew louder......

Then there is the issue of the media council and its alleged lack of teeth to bite, ostensibly because of lack of funding.

At the end, Mutua took a few minutes to ask for people to tell both sides of the story and to always give the other side a chance to be heard.

But he told his message anyway......