Monday, January 05, 2009

Why it s hard to sympathize with the media

As a journalist, it is very easy to be swallowed into the bandwagon calling for actions to amend the Kenya Communications Act, which the media hoped it would not be signed.

But most of us shouting from the top of our heads do not even know much about the history of the process. It has been a long process since 1998 when the Kenya Communications Act came into force. The ICT policy was published in 2006 and since then the amendment

We do not even know that the media owners did not consider it as priority then, to send high level officials from the media houses to the multi-stakeholder forums.
I recall at one time we were laughing that the only media official, apart from those who were covering the event, was from DSTv.

Of course my stint at the Kenya ICT Action Network allowed me to engage with the ICT industry in regard to the ICT policy and the subsequent law.

What would have happened, if Linus Gitahi, Nation Media Group CEO and other media heavy weights were there from the first day of the multi-stakeholder deliberations? What if all those concerns were tackled at another level, maybe the wording would be different.

Since December, the media owners have met more times than they have probably met in the last three years. Too bad the result did not go their way.

This should be a lesson to the media owners, to be more engaged not only in covering the functions but in the deliberations. Yes, the process can be tough and involving, and to some extent full of gibberish but it saves a lot of last minute troubles.

In my opinion, this was a fight more for the media owners than ordinary journalists. The open sides that radio stations took during last elections was more of an issue of editorial policy than individual journalists. I mean the policy that the owners come out and say we support certain parties, not the story done because the journalist received a handout. The debate has been going on for sometime.

For us journalists, we can not even champion our own cause. How do you walk out to protest against a bill that affects telecommunications equipment when you can't protest against rubbish wages and crappy working environments.

What would happen if we wanted to protest against a media house that fires 60 journalists without notice, you go to work one day and you find a letter and a cheque and instructions to the security team that they should not let you in. Just because the media house has enough money to pay off three months salary, there is nothing you can do.

If the journalists wanted to take to the streets, would the media houses even cover the event?

That is why Gitahi and his team needed to take to the streets and protest if they felt aggrieved. It is true that if the equipment is confiscated, then journalists will be out of a job media houses don't need such drastic measures to kick journalists out.

I see this as a battle for the media owners because if they perceived it as important, they would have allocated a team from all the media houses to deal with the issues.

It is also easy to be led to believe that these rules do not exist elsewhere, I was reading the Tanzanian Act and it is far more stringent than what we are complaining about.

UK, Australia and majority of the EU have these rules, and that is why you see there is no much of convincing cries from the international community. This is because there is need for some level of regulation.


kach said...

nice piece Rebecca, i totally agree. The media heavy weights did very little in the initial stages to shape the media bill.

Check out my thoughts on this here:

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