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THE MEDIA

BSERVER A Publication of the Media Council of Kenya

July - September 2013

Swimming in New Waters Media in a changed landscape:

Coverage of Devolution


About Us The Media Council of Kenya is an independent national institution established by the Media Act 2007 as the leading institution in the regulation of media and in the conduct and discipline of journalists.

Vision A professional and free media accountable to the public.

Mission To safeguard media freedom, enhance professionalism and arbitrate media disputes. Council’s Role, Mandate, Functions and Authority The Council draws its mandate and authority from the Media Act CAP 411B. Its functions of are to: • • • • • • • • • • • •

Mediate or arbitrate in disputes between the government and the media, between the public and the media and intra-media. Promote and protect freedom and independence of the media. Promote high professional standards amongst journalists. Enhance professional collaboration among media practitioners. Promote ethical standards among journalists and in the media. Ensure the protection of the rights and privileges of journalists in the performance of their duties. Advise the government or the relevant authority on matters pertaining to professional, education and the training of journalists and other media practitioners. Make recommendations on the employment criteria for journalists. Uphold and maintain the ethics and discipline of journalists. Do all matters that appertain to the effective implementation of this Act. Compile and maintain a register of journalists, media practitioners, media enterprises and such other related registers. Conduct an annual review of the performance and the general public opinion of the media, and publish the results.

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Media Council of Kenya P.O. Box 43132 - 00100 NBI Tel: +254 20 2737058, 2725032 Cell: +254 727 735252 Email:infomediacouncil. or.ke

Editorial Board Joseph Odindo Mitch Odero Levi Obonyo Martha Mbugguss Otsieno Namwaya

Editorial Team Chief Executive Officer Haron Mwangi

Editorial Coordinators Victor Bwire Jerry Abuga

Consulting Editor Gathenya Njaramba

Contributors Amos Kibet David Ohito Jerry Abuga Joe Kadhi John Gachie John Oywa Gitonga Muranga Godfrey Isiye Mwela Naisula Lesuuda Oloo Janak Othieno Nyanjom Peter Mwaura Priscilla Nyokabi Prof Ben Sihanya

Valerie Okumu Victor Bwire Wellingtone Nyongesa Photo Credits Moses Omusula Jerry Abuga Design & Layout The Rodwell Press Ltd Tel:+254 20 2471001/3/6, +254 725 374336, sales@interlabelsafrica.com www.rodwellpress.com

The Media Observer is published quarterly by the Media Council of Kenya with assistance from Ford Foundation. The views expressed in articles published in this publication are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of the Media Council of Kenya.

Contents Media Council of Kenya in knowledge exchange trip........................................................... 3 Media Council Reaches out to Neighbours ......................................................................... 3 Media Council conducts journalists’ training needs study...................................................... 4 County scribes’ new challenge and how to avoid ‘landmines’ .............................................. 5 Media’s place in devolution................................................................................................ 7 Media owes Kenyans a honest track of devolution process................................................... 10 County media revolution: All news will be local .................................................................. 12 The media in a devolved landscape ................................................................................... 14 Devolution: Media gets perfect platform to play watchdog .................................................. 17 Opportunities abound for the media at the Counties ........................................................... 19 My walk after ditching the ‘pen’ for the Governor’s office .................................................... 22 Media ownership and convergence under devolution .......................................................... 24 Media’s role pertinent in constitution implementation and devolution ................................... 28 The county is the new king in newsmaking ......................................................................... 30 The media has its hands full on devolution ......................................................................... 31 Social networking amid devolution of power and resources ................................................. 34 Why media’s oversight role is critical to successful devolution .............................................. 37 The Media Council’s role expands .................................................................................... 40 The media is key in enhancing image of Parliament ............................................................ 43

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EDITOR’S NOTE

Kenyans yearned for devolution, now they must make it work

S

weat,

blood

and

even

devolution brings responsibility closer

dozens of precocious but

home.

brave souls. That is the

Now, with devolved power and

heavy price Kenyans paid in

resources, comes the need for proper

nearly over two decades to attain the

checks and balances. This is where

world-acclaimed 2010 Constitution.

the Fourth Estate, which will also

Make no mistake, most developed

have to devolve, comes in. It would

nations rarely achieve such feat

be tragic, for instance, to cascade

without going through a civil war of

to the 47 counties the obnoxious old

fatal proportions. Kenya’s supreme

ways of doing things like corruption,

law has been hailed as one of the

exclusion and nepotism.

most progressive globally, hence Kenyans can hope.

In this issue of the Media Observer, analysts and seasoned journalists

That said, the other tough phrase

argue

has kicked off in its implementation.

possible solutions to successful roll-

The old has to give way for the new

out of devolution. It is a new system

order, and as the sun always set in

of government that will inevitably

the evening, it won’t be a mere walk

face teething problems. But there is

in the park. Another set of heroes

no retreat or surrender for majority of

must emerge.

Kenyans. The media and practice of

out

the

challenges

and

Sessional Paper number 10. The

journalism will also feel the pinch of

At the core of the clamour for an

skewed growth fuelled resentment

devolution as the writers in this issue

overhaul of the abused Independence

among

in

acknowledge. Journalists and media

Constitution,

for

neglected regions and at some point,

houses will not only have to embrace

equitable share of the national cake

something had to give. Devolved

devolution but must also help guard

and devolution of power. Right from

governance,

political

the noble purposes of this new

colonial times, Kenya grew based

power and devolved resources were

dispensation. There will be ups and

on old-fashioned policies informed

envisaged and packaged in the new

downs, but the media must help keep

by the thinking that the Government

law to remedy the injustices.

the country and county leaders on

was

the

thirst

communities

living

devolved

should only invest in regions where it

the track. Welcome to this stimulating

could recoup its money. This meant

Devolution, therefore, informs the

debate on devolution and as usual

areas deemed unprofitable were

huge expectations all Kenyans have in

share with us your take. Enjoy!

deliberately left out when sharing

the new constitutional dispensation.

national

few

For the hungry, devolution will help

lucky ones got the lion’s share. This

put food on the table. For the thirsty,

was indeed reinforced by the 1965

devolution should ease the flow of

resources

while

a

pure water. For the power-starved, 2

Gathenya Njaramba, Consultant Editor


Media Council of Kenya in knowledge exchange trip By Jerry Abuga Singapore is state regulated with minimal industrial participation. The organisation and regulation is underpinned by the central role of media and economic development”, said the Media Council Chief Executive Officer Haron Mwangi.

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he Media Council of Kenya officials visited Singapore for a one-week learning tour.

The team that comprised Council members and members of the Complaints Commission arrived in Singapore on Monday, 16 September 2013. The team visited the Singaporean Ministry of Communication and Information where it was briefed

on the media landscape as well as the relationship between local and foreign media in Singapore. The meeting was also attended by the Media Development Authority. The meeting also discussed the processes of media regulation and the role of the government in the process, the media system, media and development, politics and national cohesion. “We learnt that the media in

He added that the Singaporean media plays a central role in promoting national cohesion and integration. The team also visited the Consulate of the Republic of Kenya before visiting Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), a media organisation in Singapore with business in print, internet and new media, television and radio, outdoor media and property. Those on the trip included Council members Ms Sarah Nkatha, the Council Vice Chairperson, Mr. Peter Wakoli, Mrs Nelly Matheka and Mr Eric Orina and Complaints Commissioners Prof Murej Mak’Ochieng and William Oketch and the Council CEO.

Media Council Reaches out to Neighbours By Jerry Abuga

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he Media Council of Kenya has pledged to support the professionalisation of the media in the region. Speaking when he received a

delegation of journalists from Sudan and South Sudan at the Council on 9 September 2013 , the Council Chief Executive Officer Haron Mwangi said Kenya’s media coregulation model has set the pace for media regulation in Africa. He added that the Council’s Guidelines for Elections Coverage has been widely adopted regionally, especially in coverage of general elections. “South African Development Community nations have adopted the Media Council of Kenya Election

Guide. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Malawi have borrowed the guide. We gladly extend the same to the Sudans”, he told the group. The team comprised journalists, officials from journalists’ unions, media owners, editors and writers’ associations from the neighbouring countries. The group was taken through the Council’s mandate, including its media arbitration and accreditation role. The delegation was led by Faisal Elbagir, the Coordinator General of Journalists for Human Rights [JHR] Sudan. 3


Media Council conducts journalists’ training needs study By Jerry Abuga

structure for journalists and remuneration is haphazardly fixed at entry with salaries based on personal bargaining power”, reads part of the report which also found out that freelance journalists currently contribute the bulk of the media content but are the least paid. It also discovered that many freelance journalists work without contracts, have no insurance cover and no pension scheme. The study further found out that media enterprises that have better working conditions for journalists perform better financially.

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he Media Council of Kenya shared findings on a study it commissioned on journalist’ training needs, working conditions and welfare in Kenya. The event held at Serena Hotel, Nairobi on 29 August 2013 attracted participants from media stakeholders including the Media Owners Association, Kenya Union of Journalists, Kenya Editors Guild, Kenya Correspondents’ Association, human resource managers and media training institutions. Among the areas looked at in the study included: the legal environment, trade unions and professional associations, training and specialisation, employment status of journalists, salaries and remuneration as well as the working conditions of Kenyan media women.

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Some of the key findings of the study were that female journalists comprising about a third of the respondents face some harassment from male colleagues. It was further found out that 60 percent of journalists did not receive in-house training or further training by their employers.

The study also found out that there is a laissez-faire attitude towards the training, hiring, remuneration, specialisation and general working conditions of journalists. “Most media houses do not have an established pay

On journalists’ safety, the Media Council study found out that very few journalists received protective and security gear from their employer while covering stories in high-risk areas. The Media Council of Kenya is required by the Media Act 2007 to advise the government and other relevant regulatory authorities on matters relating to professional, education and the training of journalists and other media practitioners. The Council is also mandated to ensure the protection of the rights and privileges of journalists in the performance of their duties. The Council commissioned a study just before the 2013 election to establish journalists’ and media practitioner’s training needs and their welfare, safety and protection status and its impact on media performance and public issues, including elections.


County scribes’ new challenge and how to avoid ‘landmines’ From his experiences as an editor and media trainer, Joe Kadhi examines the imminent challenges journalists are likely to face with the new political dispensation.

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evolution in Kenya is a big challenge to journalism. It necessitates examination of two professional aspects of coverage of county stories. The first concerns journalistic contribution to uplifting democracy in counties; and the second concerns the most challenging ethical principles in performing that duty. No democracy worth its salt can last long without an efficiently upright Executive guided by an independent Judiciary supported by a truly representative Legislature while it is kept on its toes by a genuinely independent Fourth Estate. For that to happen members of the Fourth Estate must have professional ability to play their watchdog roles knowledgeably and skilfully. The coverage of the entire devolution process can be cumbersome. In some cases it seems infested with all sorts of corrupt activities by leaders who seem to think the only purpose for devolution

is to illicitly accumulate money in a manner exemplified by our members of the National Assembly. Journalists engaged in coverage of the process and those who will be covering the day-to-day county functions, therefore, must sharpen the practitioners’ fundamental beliefs in democratic principles. In schools of journalism the watchdog role of the Fourth Estate constitute the foundation of introductory course. This calling goes hand in hand with commitment and courage to “publish and be damned”, if necessary, and when called upon to do so, in defence of the truth. That said many scholars still disagree on what really constitute the watchdog role of the Fourth Estate. Yet the notion of the Fourth Estate playing that vital role is centuries old. Nowhere is this role of the Fourth Estate truer than in the Kenya’s counties where journalists have to be extra vigilant to expose all sorts

Joe Kadhi

of excesses by the newly elected county governments. Fortunately the journalists who will be performing this challenging duty, have the Constitution on their side. The first step in coverage of devolution and counties, therefore, begins with a thorough understanding of Chapter 11 of the Constitution that dwells on devolved governance. Very often development plans are written by experts in grandiloquent highfalutin verbiage which county journalists will have the responsibility to change into acceptable and easy to understand news to the readers, viewers and listeners. This is where the profession becomes challenging. Any investigative journalist conversant with these constitutional provisions will come up with an exposé whenever (a) National unity is threatened (b) People are disregarded in any important decision making process in the counties (c) People are stopped 5


from managing their own affairs and (d) When minorities are manifestly or indirectly marginalised. The Constitution further says the object and principles of devolved Government are centred on social and economic development aimed at providing proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya. This can be done by ensuring equitable sharing of national and local resources by facilitating decentralisation of State organs, their functions and services, from the capital of Kenya. The fundamental principle that can be used to fulfil these ambitious goals, again according to the Constitution, is to enhance checks and balances and separation of powers.

Decentralisation of governmental functions is normally easily achieved through public debates and discourses that can only be possible if the county governments respect the notion of freedom of expression. The role of journalists in strengthening democracy, good governance, and human development can best be guaranteed through unfettered and independent press within each county. Journalists covering counties will be serving their watchdog roles in a more interesting and exciting manner when there is both media pluralism and diversity in counties. Maybe the most important watchdog role journalists in counties can

professional task is to invoke the traditional watchdog role. This is normally done by emphasizing the fact that to uphold DEMOCRACY journalists must make sure that: The Executive is AUTHORITATIVE without being AUTORITARIAN. The Legislature is REPRESENTATIVE when the Judiciary or the Third Branch is INDEPENDENT as The Fourth Estate is FREE. Describing the executive as authoritative means it is dependable, consistent, steadfast, unswerving, unfailing, and trustworthy and demanding that it is not authoritarian means it is not strict, tyrannical, demanding, totalitarian, despotic, absolute, dictatorial, and autocratic.

All that makes the watchdog role of members of the Fourth Estate in counties even more challenging by making sure the media become extremely vigilant in exposing any cases of inaccessible services or inequitable sharing of resources. This, of course, is easier said than done.

play right away is to expose any attempt by those in power to own and monopolise TV, radio stations and even newspapers. In my view the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) should make sure such trends are vehemently opposed and stopped. County journalists will have the responsibility of informing the people how County Assemblies legislate laws, which county executives have to implement as they provide service to the people. Efficiency is mandatory because Subsection (2) of Article 176 is unambiguous about the issue of efficiency and practicability. It clearly says every county government shall decentralise its functions and the provision of its services to the extent that it is efficient and practicable to do so. That means journalists have a responsibility to expose every inefficient and unreasonable county task .To perform the watchdog role the media has to ensure that both county assemblies and county executives perform their services to the people in efficient and transparent manner. Maybe the best way to do this

The big question is: HOW DO JOURNALISTS COVER ALL THESE STORIES AND BOLDLY COME UP WITH EXPOSES PROFESSIONALLY? Inefficient Executives make good exposés when: There are square pegs in round holes. This makes journalists have the opportunity to expose any signs of nepotism and also expose any signs of tribalism in county governments. In Kenya before the promulgation of the Constitution the truth was that top Government jobs were never advertised. Jomo Kenyatta started the game of nepotism and Daniel arap Moi perfected it while Mwai Kibaki had his own way of implementing it. County journalists can only help to establish true transparency by acquiring a thorough knowledge of Freedom of Information Act, which ideally should replace the Official Secrets Act. Given the fact that the enactment of Kenya’s freedom of information act is still in the pipelines I can only examine what an ideal FOI act should look like; but because of limitation of space that too is not included in this article. Be that as it may journalists’ knowledge

Journalists must understand principles of devolved government, which are based on democratic principles and the separation of powers. They must know county governments must have reliable sources of revenue to govern and deliver services effectively. They must also be on alert to expose any appointments that don’t put into consideration the requirement that no more than two-thirds of the members of representative bodies in each county government shall be of the same gender. According to Article 176 (1) each county government, consisting of a County Assembly and a county executive shall decentralise its functions and the provision of its services to the extent that it is efficient and practicable to do so. 6


of their right to information would probably be the most effective way of making the county executive respect accountability. Besides that county journalists must be courageous enough to publish stories as exposés from the Auditor General’s report, which reveal corruption among county executives. They must also have the knowledge of reporting conflict of interest among the County

Executives. Needless to say these stories cannot be done without true independence of the media and a high level of professionalism. Journalists’ rights to cover proceedings of county assemblies are protected by the Constitution’s Article 196(2) which says “A county assembly may not exclude the public, or any media, from any sitting unless in exceptional circumstances the

Media’s place in devolution The Constitution of Kenya 2010 is expected to entrench devolution, freedom of expression and media as key parameters in constitutional implementation. Prof Ben Sihanya analyses how the media should cover devolution” in the Kenyan and comparative context.

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evolution is a response to Kenya’s challenges like poverty, ill health, ignorance and poor governance associated with ethnicity.

Prof. Ben Sihanya

Devolution is intended to secure the quality of life, liberty and prosperity. These include freedom from arson, assault or assassination, electoral justice, equitable employment,

speaker has determined that there are justifiable reasons for doing so.” However it is also important for journalists to understand County Assemblies and their committee are powerful institutions, which can summon anybody to give evidence or provide information. That means county assemblies have the same powers as the High Court to enforce the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise; compel the production of documents; and issue a commission or request to examine witnesses abroad. The best way for county journalists to deal with this is to make sure all their stories are ethically upright, accurate and fair. Mr Joe Kadhi is a Journalism Lecturer at the United States International University. joekadhi@yahoo.com

freedom of expression and media freedom. Why? Most of these have been endangered under successive regimes. What is devolution? How does the US or Nigerian media report, analyse and educate on federalism? How should Kenya’s media address the conceptual, theoretical and contextual questions on devolution? Secondly, how does media law and practice in Kenya relate to devolution? And thirdly, how is devolution threatened? By whom? And how can devolution be implemented under the Constitution in spite of the threats? What lessons can Kenyans and the Kenyan media learn from the US and Nigeria? I argue that a central Government and a Central media establishment owned or controlled by one class or community or its dynasty and nobility or aristocracy, is a major threat to devolution and constitutional government in Kenya. And this

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and enhancing checks and balances and the separation of powers.

agoromania, avarice, selfishness, greed, tyranny or arrogance of power must be addressed immediately by all who love Kenya and its Constitution. It is a security risk and must be confronted in the national interest. Vague references to tribalism will not help. First, under Chapter 11, the Fourth Schedule and other provisions of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, devolution means sharing of power, resources, functions and delivery of services between the national and the 47 county governments. Devolution also means vertical division or dispersal of power to the counties on the basis of co-operation, interdependence and mutual control and accountability (Art. 174). In comparison, US and Nigerian federalism underscore greater autonomy between the federal and state governments. Why devolution now? Tribalism and nepotism have posed the challenges to development and integration in Kenya since independence. The media talks about tribalism generally. The media must seek answers to specific questions on various issues affecting the populace. The more these issues recur, and especially during elections, the more the arch-centralists; the key ethnic jingoists and chauvinists as well as the (in)direct beneficiaries - conspire with Government agencies and the media to defeat the national cause and agenda. And these interests are so powerful that some devolutionists are intimidated and change cause, or keep quiet in debates on devolution or resource distribution. Increasingly, the media is deeply embedded in the control of power and resources. It is not just a medium of communication. It has elements of a public resource given private or community media enjoy public resources including (radio) frequency 8

or tax rebates. The media should help answer specific (and not just hypothetical) questions: Who owns, controls and manages the various components of the Nation Media Group (NMG)? Baraza (Standard) Group? Royal Media Services (RMS)? Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)? K24? The control includes financial, administrative and editorial. What is the ethnic or ideological composition of these media houses? Such questions need to disaggregate the newspapers or magazines (print), the broadcasting (radio, TV) and new media (webcasting, online, social media). Who determines content in terms of the editorial, opinions, features or news reports? Who assigns or manages reporters, anchors and interviewees, especially in debates on devolution, power politics and resource governance? Devolution is intended to achieve at least nine (9) key objects or purposes under Article 174. These include democratic and accountable exercise of power; national unity through diversity; and self-governance by and participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them. Other purposes include promoting the interests and rights of minorities and marginalised communities; promoting social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya; equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout Kenya; decentralisation of State organs, their functions and services, from the capital of Kenya;

The last focuses on vertical separation of powers or checks and balances. The division of Government into the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary emphasises horizontal separation of powers as well as checks and balances. In the US, decentralisation is effected through three levels of government, namely federal, state and local. Nigeria practices a lower level of federalism under the 1999 Constitution. In both countries the media promote federalism, and especially state rights, through progressive or positive reports and analyses. The media like CNN, New York Times, or Time also positively help to point out errors and suggests reforms. Second, the media’s role should include information on civic and related education providing entertainment; and facilitating communication and exchange of information, perspectives and experiences on devolution in Kenya and Nigeria as well as elsewhere in Africa, in the US, the UK and Germany, among others. The media is a watchdog, agenda setter, and facilitator of constitutionalism and governance, including the realisation of popular sovereignty. To be sure, the grandfather of African constitutional scholarship, Prof Ben Obi Nwabueze of Nigeria, has identified three key aspects of the people’s sovereignty in Presidentialism in Commonwealth Africa (1974), and in Constitutional Democracy in Africa (2003), among others. First is the constituent power which includes making, amending or reviewing a constitution. Second, it is the power to elect governors or rulers. And third, it is the power and right to monitor and evaluate administration or governance.


Significantly, the media helped in the passing of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. It mediated debate on devolution, human rights, the rule of law and good governance, among others. But as scholars, election petitions, activists, and the last edition of the Media Observer indicate, the media was largely retrogressive in the March 4 elections, especially regarding tallying and announcement of presidential election results. This has undermined the implementation of the Constitution and devolution. Constitutional implementation includes enactment of legislation by officials elected in free, fair, transparent, accountable and verifiable elections (Article 81). Media impartiality is problematic under the Constitution, the Media Act 2007 and the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act, Cap 221. Implementation of devolution is also to be done by appointed officials. And most are appointed or vetted by elected officials such as the President, Governors, and MPs. Thus the March 4 election results have adverse ripple effects on devolution. A number of questions have been posed on the performance of the media after the general elections and subsequently in the devolution process. Do the relevant institutional media, media owners, managers, journalists and other communication officials have the constitutional, legal, political or moral authority on constitutional implementation including devolution? There have also been several challenges to devolution including enactment of laws that strengthen central institutions; low or delayed funding or disbursement; saddling county governments with debts incurred by the local authorities which were agencies of the central (or National) Government; and duplication of roles between the national and county governments. A successful challenge in Justice

Mumbi Ngugi’s High Court has been reversed by the Court of Appeal without adequately addressing the key constitutional questions. The media ought to address such issues in detail and consistently. There is also sabotage through deployment of central Government officials without (sufficient) participation of the county government that has primary responsibility on the performance of the officials. The structure of the media in terms of ownership and editorial as well as financial control especially by one community is a major threat to freedom of expression (Article 33), media freedom (Article 34), access to information (Article 35) and devolution (Chapter 11, etc). Voices on devolution, elections and constitutional government are increasingly being gagged. Those who are not ideologically or ethnically compliant are deprived airtime or space; their views misrepresented; or caricatured and adversely commented on without sufficient right of reply. Targets include politicians, scholars, analysts, writers and freelancers or correspondents. Some progressives now exercise self-censorship to comply and survive the ethnic bigotry. Such practices also affect federalism in Nigeria. In the US, however, the media are generally open and some (like Fox) do not pretend to be neutral. And there is also competition which mitigates the bias. Remarkably, direct threats to the media pose (in) direct threats to devolution. These include manipulation, intimidation, bribery, stealing, arson, assault and assassination. The media must be firm and fair to help secure constitutional government and devolution. It must emulate what was good about Gitobu Imanyara’s Nairobi Law Monthly, Pius Nyamora’s Society and NCCK’s Beyound. Third, the challenges to devolution,

freedom of expression and media freedom in Kenya include the new governance structures. There are challenges from potentially fratricidal sibling rivalry with the National Assembly and Senate fighting proxy wars on behalf of the counterand anti-devolution groups. Some good Governors and the media must not play to the trick of the opponents to destroy devolution by portraying Governors as wallowing in kleptomania, autocracy or delusions of grandeur. Remarkably, some challenges arise from the counter-devolution, the pro-devolution and the ambivalent media. Some of the media are keen on reporting or analysing the problems of devolution especially in pro-devolution areas without engaging in problem solving. Yet the media houses have experts in-house, from the academy, civil society or politics. Yet there are still opportunities for devolution, freedom of expression and media freedom in Kenya. Progressive Kenyans must remain vigilant and struggle against centralists in the full knowledge that centralists may weaken devolution and its institutions in the near term, but they cannot amend or abrogate the Constitution constitutionally. And many progressives must continue using the limited space within the mainstream media and the expanding social media like You Tube, facebook, twitter, whatsapp and skype. These alternatives within and to the mainstream media as well as related measures will hopefully sustain devolution under the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Prof Ben Sihanya is a Scholar, Intellectual Property, Constitutionalism & Education Law at the University of Nairobi LawSchool and Professor-inresidence, Public Intellectual, Mentor and Advocate at Sihanya Mentoring & Innovative Lawyering. sihanyamentoring@gmail.com 9


Media owes Kenyans a honest track of devolution process Victor Bwire The Kenyan Constitution 2010 recognises the central role the media should play in implementing devolution. As Victor Bwire explains, the media should not shy away from seeking answers to pertinent questions.

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he County Governments Act No. 17 of 2012 requires county governments to use the media to create awareness on devolution and governance; promote citizens’ understanding for purposes of peace and national cohesion; undertake advocacy on core development issues such as agriculture, education, health, security, economics, sustainable environment, promote media freedom, among others. Granted, the media remains a key player in the implementation process since access to information and freedom of expression are essential to successful devolution and citizens’ participation in governance. For this reason, the media should move away from focus on persons, sideshows and mundane issues in the devolution debate and dwell on key issues on why Kenya needs a devolved system of government and track the devolution process. The media has a responsibility to remain vigilant in monitoring implementation of devolution, but more importantly, it 10

bears the responsibility of sensitising and educating the public on the virtues, opportunities and challenges facing devolution. Devolving media along with government is essential if citizens are to hold county authorities to account. It will ensure county governments are focused, not on posturing for a national audience, but on local issues, which will ultimately have a huge impact on the day-to-day operations of the counties and on peoples’ livelihood. Stephen Cushion, Justin Lewis and Chris Groves undertook a study on how UK’s devolved politics was reported by the British broadcast media. In a publication titled “Reflecting the four nations? An analysis of reporting devolution on UK network news media”, the findings show news reports on devolved politics or issues occupy a tiny part of everyday news coverage. The issue of imbalanced regional news reporting was noted in the UK media where broadcasters and television

news accorded more attention to coverage of England as compared to coverage of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The relevance of this aspect of reporting devolution to Kenyan case is highly probable. Some counties by chance, circumstances or situational appropriateness might be accorded high coverage at the expense of others. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in a paper by Journalist Douglas Fraser on the Media’s influence on post-devolution, points out that the media can create cross-border tensions when covering devolution. This has relevance to Kenya. Some counties are well endowed compared to others. The media may create a perception that some counties are benefiting more from devolution, which might not be the case. Devolution results in geographical conversations being broken up and the way the media portrays them becomes a challenge to an overall sense of unity and shared national culture. The coverage of devolution may also fail to reflect the regional


and national diversity of the country. It’s important for the media to highlight the history of devolution and the many attempts towards

decentralizing governance and service delivery in Kenya, and not just transfer of monies and resources to the counties. That is not the reason Kenyans wanted devolution. As the Independence Constitution and numerous debates show, the intention of decentralisation has been to ensure the national Government (the Kenya state) direction of development process and planning is based on local inputs as a means of improving socio-economic wellbeing of local communities. The thinking is that development is bottom up, instead of national Government transferring funds to local governments for services they may not need or won’t utilise, because it is not feasible. The focus is on economic and social development of local people based on exploitation of local resources while at the same time ensuring national unity and sharing our diversity as one nation. Thus, by media looking at the budgets developed by the county governments, it will enable citizens see if what is planned is economically relevant to them. At independence, the Government started a form of devolution commonly known as majimbo, which granted significant recognition and responsibility to the regions.

The system granted power to Local Authorities to collect taxes and the responsibility for the maintenance of schools, health facilities and minor roads. Through “Sessional paper No. 10 of 1965 on African socialism and its application in planning” the Government established the principle of state direction of development process and decentralization of planning based on local inputs as a means of improving socio-economic well being of the rural community. The Sessional Paper No. 4 of 1975 on ‘Economic Prospects and Policies’ that followed, laid emphasis on Government’s commitment to rural development’. In furtherance of this thinking, since late 1970s and early 1980s, the six Regional Development Authorities (RDAs) were given a common mandate to plan and coordinate implementation of regional development activities. Even in the District Focus for Rural Development Strategy (DFRDS) developed in 1983 under then powerful Simeon Nyachae, that made the district the epi-centre of all development interventions, emphasised economic and social development via exploitation of local resources. Other decentralisation interventions including the Local Authorities Transfer Fund (LATF) Act of 1999 only provided for disbursement of funds to Local Authorities to supplement financing of services and facilities they are required to provide under the Local Government Act. The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) that followed in 2003 through the CDF Act aimed at correcting imbalances in regional development especially focusing on poverty reduction at constituency levels.

The Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) implemented in 2000 in tandem with the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) followed by the Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation (2003-2007) stressed the need to accelerate local government reform process to further improve local service delivery, governance and poverty alleviation and not destroying or allowing county governments to compete with the national government on some issues including security. Neither does the Vision 2030, which under the Political Pillar that provides for decentralization, allows for what the MPs are demanding. Similarly, the ‘Economic stimulus Programme of 2009/10’ that aimed at turning the Kenyan economy around towards long-term growth and development particularly after the effects of the 2007/08 postelection violence did not attempt to erode powers of the national government in relation to local governance structures. The Constitution of Kenya 2010, which provides for devolved government indicates the functions as promoting social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya; ensure equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout Kenya; facilitate the decentralization of State organs, their functions and services, from the capital city. Has the media been asking these questions? What is the Government’s policy and direction on devolution? What guides the philosophy? Mr Victor Bwire is the Deputy CEO and Programmes Manager of the Media Council of Kenya. victor@mediacouncil.or.ke 11


County media revolution: All news will be local

Peter Mwaura

The County Governments Act of 2012 requires the county government to fulfil some responsibilities through the media. Peter Mwaura explores how devolution has provided a perfect opportunity for media explosion.

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oon, county media will represent the best form of “community journalism”, perhaps embodying the saying that “all news is local”. Community journalism is often defined as locally oriented, professional news coverage focusing on communities rather than national or world news. In county media, communities will be defined as territorial as well as cultural entities as contained within the county boundaries. County media will, or should, concentrate on topics affecting local communities. They will cover news and subjects the national media do not have enough time or space to cover. They will cover stories on county government, local politics, crime, business, markets and other developments as well as details of 12

community life. They will cover stories the national media may consider “chicken-feed” but play an important role in shaping the lives and opinions of the locals. In coming months and years majority of the media will be county based, meaning newspapers, radio and television stations from the counties. The County Government Act 2012 makes such developments possible. The Act makes provisions for the growth of county media. And loyalty to counties, as well as a possible cultural renaissance, will encourage growth of the media in all the 47 counties. Soon, the county media will most likely shape community values, standards and self-interest. The media will therefore play an important role in the counties.

The community media will almost without doubt play a critical role in surveillance of county affairs. They will in all likelihood impact on communities’ power structure and politics. One way to measure such possible impact will be how the traditional watch-dog role of the media positively influences, or will have the potential to influence, governance in the counties and provide a voice not only for the leaders but also for the led. Such eventualities will not be difficult to measure. The County Government Act provides benchmarks and standards to be achieved. It lays down what media outlets, facilities and enabling environment should be in place. It provides the political and philosophical justification for the media operations. The Act is


full of must-do communication related dictums, with the word “information” appearing 29 times, “access to information” 11 times, “communication” 22 times, “media” 8 times, public or citizen “participation” 21 times, and “civic education” 30 times. These are not merely statistics of the appearance of key words; they are a measure of how seriously the County Governments Act relies on media and information for its proper implementation. There are, for example, 20 sections in the law that give the public enormous powers to check actions of county governors. The Governor is required to sell to the public his policies and explain how he discharges his duties. All this requires well-functioning media outlets. The public “say-so” is stamped all over the Act, which translates into the development of media in the counties. It incorporates mandatory public participation in the exercise of powers or performance of the county government functions and planning processes. It sets out citizens’ right to petition the county government on any matter, appeal or review, public hearings, and access to information. The Act requires the Governor to use the media to promote public awareness and civic education. All this requires the presence of a credible and strong media. The Act further requires the Governor not only to communicate to the county citizenry but also communicate with them. It foresees a communication system able to impact on public opinion. In fact, public communication and access to information is central in all county development activities. A county is required to establish mechanisms to facilitate public communication and

access to information in the form of media with the widest public outreach in the county. The media may include television, ICT centres, websites and community radio, among others. “The county government shall encourage and facilitate other means of mass communication including traditional media,” states section 95 of the Act. The county is required to use the media to create awareness on devolution and governance and undertake advocacy on core development issues. It is also required to promote freedom of the media. The Governor is required to publish a “County Gazette”. And according to section 85 of the Act, citizen participation in county governments shall be based on, among other thing, the principle of timely access to information, data, documents and information relevant or related to policy formulation and implementation. Citizens have the right to petition and challenge the county government on any matter under the responsibility of the county government, and the county government authorities, agencies and agents have a duty to respond expeditiously to petitions and challenges from citizens, according to section 89. All this presupposes existence of a healthy media. Section 96 guarantees access to information. It states that every Kenyan shall on request have access to information held by any county government or any unit or department of any other State organ in accordance with Article 35 of the Constitution. So every county government and its agencies are required to designate an office for purposes of ensuring access to information. A county government is also required to enact legislation to ensure access to information.

Public communication and access to information is expected to facilitate public participation in the affairs of a county including public hearing for national development projects and amendments to the county development plan before they can be considered by the County Assembly. Accordingly, civic education, intended to empower and enlighten citizens, is a major requirement. According to section 99, the purpose of civic education is to have an informed citizenry that actively participates in the governance affairs of a county “on the basis of enhanced knowledge, understanding and ownership of the Constitution”. All this foresees the development of a robust media, both print and electronic. Civic education is expected to result in, among others, heightened demand by citizens for service and “ownership and knowledge” of issues facing a county. Each county is required to implement a civic education programme and establish a civic education unit. These are some provisions in the Act that are going to stimulate development of the media in the counties. So we can all look forward to the phenomenal growth of the media at the county level, which will increasingly show the validity of the journalistic saying that “all news is local”. Mr Peter Mwaura, a veteran journalist, is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Communication and Journalism, Kenya Methodist University and a member of the Media Council of Kenya’s Complaints Commission. gigirimwaura@yahoo.com

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The media in a devolved landscape The promulgation of a new constitution created a new landscape for public communication and information in Kenya. John Gachie argues for the case of a more diverse and plural media in the new dispensation. For many local and international analysts, this radical endeavour has the hallmark, if well managed, of addressing Kenya’s major socialcum-political fault-line, entrenching national unity and harmony. There are many social-cultural and political-cum-economic imperatives that inform this prognosis, indeed to many observers unless the country’s body politic is weaned off and ultimately, purged of ethnic-driven political discourse and mindset; the elusive national project will remain a mirage.

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ince the promulgation of the Constitution in August 2010, the Kenyan body-politic, the social-political and economic landscape including the media sector has witnessed frenetic and at times, frantic albeit nascent transformation. This is as the country embarks on a social engineering feat of immense proportions. Ranging from the newly fangled and inclusive competitive national political realignment, seeking to debunk the old-suffocating, exclusive, ethnically driven and sign-posted national discourse to new devolved governance superstructure, the need for a devolved communication and information structure is imperative.

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Negative ethnicity, profiling, exclusion and stereo-typing are the cess-pit and bane of the country’s socialpolitical and economic template. It is the prism through which all acts of commission and or omission by the governors are rationalised, or internalised if not explained. The media is a critical player and actor in this national re-engineering enterprise and the earlier, the Kenyan media is enjoined, the better. In bold national move, framers of the 2010 Constitution sought to address these pitfalls and decades-long fissures by designing an ambitious and elaborate constitutional architecture that places high premium on political and economic power devolution. In this national social-political and economic experiment and discourse, the role, function and performance of the media are critical if not paramount.

John Gachie

The critical questions are; – how devolved is the Kenyan media landscape? Alternatively, how devolved is the information and communication flow? Subsequently, is the news gathering/staple, processing and packaging devolved? And who owns the media in Kenya and how are the media managed? Finally, what are the social and economic if not technological imperatives that drive the Kenyan media? In Chapter Four of the Constitution, more famously known as the Bill of Rights, the role, function and performance of the media is entrenched by Article 34, which envisages a free, independent, professional; plural and diverse media. Indeed, the Constitution ringfences a statutory body, the Media Council of Kenya with clear statutory obligations and mandates among them; “to serve as the lead entity in the development of a free, independent, professional and national media sector” and or industry to serve, entrench, defend and protect the Public’s Right to Exercise Freedom of Expression (Article 33), including the Right to Free Speech and Press (Media) Freedom. The Media Council of Kenya is thus, the constitutional body in which these constitutional obligations and mandates reside and is the repository of; the change champion, and the change agent in the


faith-cum-religious owned media institutions, regardless of their base. The final local media master(s) are the so-called community media, more often than not beholden to local political kingpins and benefactors despite claims to the contrary. And least but not last, the local FM radio stations and television outfits affiliated and or owned by major foreign media institutions like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Voice of America (VOA), Radio France International and the latest entrant, the Central China Television (CCTV).

development of a free, independent, professional, vibrant; diverse and plural media (press) sector. Further, as an enabling constitutional proviso Article 35, entrenches the Access (Right) to Information clause, which seeks to facilitate and enable both the individual and the media access information held by state and any other private entity. In this new constitutional architecture, the role, function and performance of the media is critical and one of the benchmarks of the country’s new social-engineering tool(s) and the pride assert as envisaged in the creation of a Public Service Broadcaster (entity) that “shall be free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts or other communications; be impartial; and afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions.” And most importantly, shall not be beholden to any other interest (s) be they private, commercial and or state in the discharge of its primary role of providing the public with news and information. It further states that Parliament shall enact legislation that provides for a body, which shall be “independent of control by government, political interests and

commercial interests.” Be that as it may, and notwithstanding these liberal and progressive constitutional guarantees on media freedoms in the constitution, the major Kenyan media landscape is, as currently constituted both private and public is structurally weighed against Information/News/ Communication Devolution as they are singularly funded, managed at the operational level; though diversified in ownership, the Kenyan media as a rule are beholden to three masters. These are in order of financing, advertising revenue streams and income. These three masters are more pronounced in the case of the State Broadcaster, The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC). The extent and degree of influence of these three masters varies somewhat from different private media institutions, but their impact cannot be gainsaid. The Private Commercial Interests dominate in terms of advertising revenue streams and income, in particular the privately owned media institutions like the major national media institutions, which are mainly urban based. The Special Purpose Interest Groups in terms of funding and ownership in particular, the

With an estimated annual media advertising revenue of approximately Sh86 billion for the year 2011-2012, the Kenyan media scene is one of the top four or five competitive revenue source base in Africa behind South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and or Morocco. Kenya is likely to witness similar growth projections as the country’s economic growth expands especially now that it is likely to be a major mineral and energy resource rich frontier, not to mention its strategic transport, service and communication location and hub in the larger Eastern/Horn of Africa region. All these media institutions, in particular the major private commercial entities have a centreperiphery news/information and communication model of processing and packaging as an editorial-cummanagement practice and tradition. This news/information model is mostly borne out centre-periphery news management edicts informed by both an elite centre-periphery education and socialisation, and business-cost-benefits analysis model as dictated by advertising, and business support and logistical imperatives. For the major State Broadcaster, similar imperatives are at play though more pronounced are the political-cum-oversight, and proximate to the key decision makers 15


in the government in the capital city, Nairobi. For all practical purposes and more so, the allied supportive technical and logistical services, the same imperatives are at play with regard to the major foreign affiliated and owned local FM stations, and to a lesser extent with regard to the singlepurpose and or faith-based media institutions and to; an even lesser extent to the so-called community media institutions. The driving imperatives in these different though mutual similar and appropriate for the major private commercial, state and or kindred media institutions - the news processing, packaging, slanting if not sourcing remains embedded to the centre-periphery mode, the capital, Nairobi and in particular, the elite political or otherwise or a combination make the news; and or the main news sources and indeed are the main consumers of the news, and by extension are the those with disposable income that advertisers seek to entice and reach for. The advertising revenue streams, including circulation are King – in a word, the driving force is revenue and the capital, Nairobi and by extension, the state the largest source of this revenue and the lifeline of the media industry. It is the search, the control and retention of these economic gains in the form of advertising revenues that inform growth and development of media in Kenya and its concentration in Nairobi. 16

For the State Broadcaster, the rationale is slightly different but equally critical, that the political leadership in the capital or elsewhere, need to reach out to engage the public in the country-side as indeed, they are hungry to learn about their leaders and their decisions that might have far-reaching impact in their lives out in the countryside.

the whims of the elite and powerful and in particular, the ruling political class that seek to monopolise views, opinions and thwart dissenting positions. The state must accept that a free diverse and plural media are critical in entrenching good governance, democracy, rule of law, transparency and human development.

This prevailing view of the centreperiphery of news and information flow is pegged on development communication theory of the media as popularized by the then newly independent leaders now universally discredited for what it is – sanitised communication/information flow and control to secure political support, obedience and thought control. For the special purpose interest media institutions including the local affiliates of international media institutions, the imperatives are different but equally based on technical/logistical and service support on one hand, and also in the creation of uniformity of content and messaging.

More fundamentally, without a clear, functional and sustained devolved media institutions and structures, devolved governance as envisaged in the Constitution could suffer lack of legitimacy and popular ownership if not support. As the largest consumer, user and source of advertising revenue, the State has a national duty and obligation to entrench, defend and protect media plurality and diversity by delinking information and news from overt and overly commercialcum-economic interests and costbenefit analysis. It must invest in a functional Public Service Broadcaster aligned to the Articles 33, 34 and 35 of Chapter Four of the Kenyan Constitution.

If that is the prevailing economic and social media landscape and structures including the operative and functional strictures, then devolution of information and communication flow could be still born at worst and still a long way off, at best. Indications and experience so far by major private media institutions are that they are yet to come up with a viable business and news processing and gathering model(s) that reflects or resonates with the new devolved power structures. The State Broadcaster is neither capable unless drastically restructured, radically strengthened, heavily funded, and protected as a duly functional; truly independent and public service broadcaster. For the State, it must internalise that media is critical to be left to

Further, it must empower and take affirmative action to devolve information, communication and most importantly, it must devolve news and re-align the current centreperiphery news processing and packing mode informed by news elitism. And more urgently, it must correct the current elite-serving and grandstanding media campaign evidenced in special advertising supplements appearing in the mainstream private newspapers by county governors ostensibly as part of public communication at exorbitant rates. Mr John Gachie is a Media Consultant and Trainer. gachie_john@yahoo.co.uk


Devolution: Media gets perfect platform to play watchdog The introduction of devolution into the Kenyan constitutional framework set the stage for increased public participation in governance. Gitonga Muranga fronts the media as the cornerstone in the success of public participation, flow of information and effective oversight of counties.

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ith the decentralisation of resources and functions to the counties, the citizens have a huge say in the development of their counties. Consequently, the media have been provided with devolution as a platform to effectively engage with the county governments. There is need therefore, for the media to be well acquitted with the opportunities offered by devolution and engage aggressively with the elected county leaders. The media should set up devolved structures to be as effective at the county governments. Without the participation of the media and other members of society corruption will stifle the bid to truly develop the counties. The media should be the link between public participation flow of information and effective oversight of counties. A key component of increasing public participation is access to information. Without timely access to information members of the public are unable to effectively play a role in development of the counties. It is therefore vital that the

media is utilised and plays a role in dissemination of information to the public. County Governments are required to facilitate structures and mechanisms to ensure citizens participate in the development of county plans, budgeting processes and legislative agenda of the counties. Utilising the media will ensure more citizens participate in these processes. The media and civil society have for over ten years advocated enactment of an access to information law. The benefit that such a law would have in ensuring flow of information would ensure public participation and oversight by the media in decisions, projects and delivery of services by public bodies. However, an access to information law is yet to be passed by Parliament with all attempts in previous years facing opposition from the Government mainly due to perceived danger of the public and (mostly) foreigners access to sensitive information. But this has been established as a weak argument being that an access to information law is intended to ensure parameters

Gitonga Muranga

to protect sensitive information are clearly set out and discretion and bureaucrats do not use the “secrecy� argument to deny the public vital information. The County Governments Act offers opportunities for the media to effectively play an oversight role in the running of County Governments. As mentioned in the past by the Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) the media has a role to keep the country informed on development of legislation and administrative procedures required to implement the Constitution. The media also bears the responsibility of sensitising and educating the public on virtues, opportunities, and challenges of the devolution process. The County Governments Act would not have been drafted better to promote public participation and numerous opportunities to provide oversight to the functions of County Governments. This legislation may have shortfalls (if any) but has greatly provided for the legal framework necessary to support transparency and accountability with the role of the media being equally relevant in the 17


implementation. Part nine of the Act provides for public communication and access to information, and begins by stating the principles to guide public communication and access to information. Section 93 sets out the principles as: Integration of communication in all development activities; observation of access to information by county media in accordance with Article 35 of the Constitution; and observation of media ethics, standards and professionalism. This section breathes life to the right to access to information previously lacking in Kenyan laws. Article 35 of the Constitution states that “every citizen has the right to: information held by the State; and information held by another person and required for the exercise or protection of any right or fundamental freedom. It further provides for the right of every person to correction or deletion of untrue or misleading information that affects the person. The State is also required to publish and publicise any important information affecting the nation. A reading of Article 35 of the Constitution and Section 93 of the Act thereby places a responsibility on the media to ensure the public access vital and important information. The County Government Act further sets out objectives of county communication in relation to the media. According to section 94 of the County Government Act, County Governments are required to use the media to create awareness on devolution and governance; promote citizens understanding for purposes of peace and national cohesion; undertake advocacy on core development issues such as agriculture, education, health, security, economics, and sustainable environment among others; and to promote freedom of the media. This list not being exhaustive demonstrates that the media are a pivotal component of the communication 18

strategy that the County Governments are required to adopt. The framework for county communication has been provided by section 95 of the County Governments Act to include the use of television stations, information communication technology centres, websites, community radio stations, public meetings and traditional media in efforts to ensure that public communication and access to information is maximised within the widest public outreach means possible. Often the media is expected to be ahead in educating the public. However, the media too is required to be trained on devolution. Various organisations and institutions have taken up the task to train media on devolution, an important aspect if the media are to play their role effectively as expected under the County Government Framework mentioned earlier. Civic education on the functions of county government is yet to be implemented at the county level. Citizens will also require to be informed of the workings of devolution and an informed media will ensure that accurate information is able to reach the citizens. Understanding the laws, frameworks of devolution and how they interrelate with national processes will enable the media to fill the blanks or gaps for the public and thereby disseminate the information in a digestible language. However, over-reliance on working at the national level would greatly affect this important role the media has been provided at the county level without adequate training of media personnel. There is need for a re-strategising by the media to set up county media platforms able to drive the conversations in each county. A situation where each county has a strong daily newspaper could provide the drive for more citizen engagement. Traditional media and

community media also have a role to play and have been included in the county framework for the dissemination of information, public communication and civic education platforms. The opportunity to expand their outreach and relevance is therefore in their court. The national government should however provide adequate support to the traditional media and community media to ensure they are able to cope with the requirements of effective journalism at par with the more established media. The use of ICT and specifically social media as a tool for dissemination of information should be further utilised in expanding the outreach to other citizens. The youth who comprise about 75 percent of Kenya’s population have taken to social networks and thereby making it a platform with the potential to reach out to a sizable part of the Kenyan population. Counties like Kiambu have utilised the social networks to inform residents on budget meetings and decisions of the County Government providing real time updates on information. The media should be steps ahead and able to keep up with the information flowing from the counties to play an effective oversight role. Devolution offers an opportunity for the media to actively engage with development issues at the county and influence the development agenda. If they actively engage with the counties as envisaged in the County Governments Act they will be the bridge that connects the public and the County Governments. Gitonga Murang’a is an advocate of the High Court and a consultant on governance issues including media, constitutional (Bill of Rights) and Devolution. murangagitonga@gmail.com


Opportunities abound for the media at the Counties In view of the establishment of county governments, Godfrey Isiye Mwela examines the saying: Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch, grow and reach new heights.

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he Kenyan media must borrow some wisdom from this maxim and set itself strategically to play a leading role in the new governance structure. There have been myriad discussions on how to create a vibrant media needed to tackle the challenges devolution presents. The discussions have sought to explain how the media industry billed to be almost 90 billion shillings; can play a vital role in transition and implementation of the new Constitution. Inexorably with the rolling out of 47 devolved units, the operation of the media is set to change for the better. Media has been a tool of communication–informing, entertaining and educating society. Our media houses perform the informing and educating role daily – through news, and feature presentations. And we have started

seeing a deliberate bias towards local content. Over the centuries, the watchdog role of the Fourth Estate and custodian of democracy has become clearer, and with devolution coming on board, the local media has its work cut out. We have witnessed county governments establish communication offices while private media houses keen to grab this opportunity, have started county editions. But there is still more room for private media to expand by establishing bureau stations in all counties. As we pride ourselves being in the digital era, county governments need to strengthen “e-governance” which will provide the media and citizens with direct access to administrative information and decision-making processes. In the same coin, private media should develop information websites,

Godfrey Isiye Mwela

as we now have a lot of information on counties right from the ward level. Kenyans have an uncanny appetite for news. They will be looking forward to increased news coverage now that county governments have opened a new window of opportunity for the media to widen networks. The media must ensure citizens have a wider access to information, as this will increase participation in governance. This will allow for maximum verifiability of information and bring stakeholders on the table to shade light on important issues. The media (free and independent) must therefore rise to the occasion; with rise in citizen journalism the watchdog role of media is probably now more powerful. Devolution gives powers of selfgovernance to the people at the county levels and enhances participation in the exercise of the 19


powers of the state. Whereas these governments will make decisions affecting them, there are many who are not aware about what is provided

to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.” Pulitzer was essentially saying the

for in the county structure – people are unaware of their rights and perhaps obligations in the new dispensation. Lack of understanding of the economic and social implications of the new devolved government and its mandate is what media must explain. The significance and perhaps the new role of the media in how well or not the County governments will execute their functions can best be captured in this argument by Joseph Pulitzer. Pulitzer, an American, waged courageous and often successful crusades against corrupt practices in government and business in the US. In May 1904, writing in ‘The North American Review’ in support of his proposal for the founding of a school of journalism, Pulitzer summarized his ideas this way: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power

media could make or break a society by the way and manner it functions. In the discussion about good governance at the counties as new economic centres and what the media plays in this game, it is essential to bring the issue of transparency and accountability. We have seen the media position itself to play a role in good governance but more needs to be done. Good governance is a pretense when there are ineffective, inadequate, limited or bad laws and when resources are misused or completely unavailable. Chapter 11 (Sections 174-200) of the Constitution sets out the various provisions of devolved government with Part 2 of the 4th schedule setting out the functions and powers of county governments. They are 14 functions key among them: Agriculture, county health services, environmental health, county transport, trade and development and planning. County governments have power to levy tax on property, entertainment and any other tax authorised to be imposed. In addition county governments are

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allocated a minimum of 15 per cent of National tax revenue amounting to Ksh 210 billion in the current financial year. These are some of the areas the media needs to highlight. Kenyans expect the media to present more information to enable them make contributions crucial for a proper functioning of democracy. We have witnessed in the past that a lot of trust has been placed on the media, the kind of trust that should not wane. The media has always stood out as the guardian of democracy and defender of the public interest - a voice talking directly to society and checking other arms of government. Going forward therefore, the challenge is on media houses to keep the fire burning. Development in counties cannot be achieved merely by having the governments and development organisations solely identify and then provide goods and services such as water, electricity, roads, schools and hospitals that are perceived to be the needs of the people. Development should go beyond identifying the needs of people and buying goods and services to satisfy those needs. Since development is a human right guaranteed by the Constitution, people have a right to it. Residents have right to development simply because as citizens, owners of the resources and wealth of the county. They are taxpayers and contribute to the funds that go into the hands of county governments directly or through the National government. The media should accord them an opportunity to suggest ways on how the resources should be shared out. There will be challenges but journalists must stand up to be counted.


It is only when journalists at the counties are free to monitor, investigate, criticise and complement the policies and programmes implemented by the public administration that good governance can take hold. They should highlight issues on legislation–implementation timelines and processes, procedure and legal provisions – to make sure the residents of devolved units are aware of important aspects of devolution. With the limited public education that has taken place so far, the onus is now on reporters to explain functions of county governments, role of governors and county assemblies. They have to bear the responsibility of sensitising and educating the public on the virtues, opportunities, and challenges of devolution. Many Kenyans still do understand the distinctiveness and inter-dependency of the two levels of government and their consultative and cooperation relationship. So far, the media has been bold enough to expose extravagant county budgets at the expense of service delivery. This is laudable. Residents of a county recently shouted down a governor with chants

of “prado, prado,” protesting the move by the governor and his county government to set aside a large part of funds towards buying expensive vehicles for county executive members following a media expose. This is the concrete link between the functioning of the media and good governance — here, the media allowing for ongoing checks and assessments by the population of the activities of government and assisting in bringing public concerns and voices into the open. The media has also covered how devolution is supposed to focus on development and not on creating

repugnant and controversial laws on counties. Another area is in the laws and regulations that various counties are suggesting that one feels perhaps some counties are becoming overzealous and forgetting the tenets of devolution. We have witnessed a situation where certain counties are beginning to see themselves as mini-republics and are demanding their own flags and anthems and creating contentious laws that may be against the spirit of our national laws. The Constitution is clear that when any other law comes into conflict with the supreme law, the national law prevails and subsidiary legislation is null and void to the extent of such inconsistency. It is hoped county governments will not devise laws and informal means of keeping their activities hidden from public view or only available to media favourable to their viewpoint. As county bosses will soon realise, five years is an awfully short period of time to deliver under the hail of expectations from the public and should waste no time on things that do not add value. Citizens must hold them to account and the media must point out the pitfalls that may make the devolution process ineffectual. The media needs to be more alert in its evaluation of the performance of county governments. Building viable, devolved, democratic governance is a new task the media must handle.

Mr Godfrey Isiye Mwela is a Communications Officer attached to the Deputy Presidential Press Service (DPPS). isiyegodie@yahoo.com

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My walk after ditching the ‘pen’ for the Governor’s office Newsrooms have lately become rich hunting grounds by county governments keen on

John Oywa

recruiting professionals to manage their communications functions. A ‘victim’ John Oywa gives his an account of his voyage in the new waters.

O

n July 3, this year, I

were shocked and excited in equal

struggling off its feet?

was on my desk at The

measure. Some discouraged me

The prospect of returning to my roots

Standard

others offered their congratulations.

(I launched my journalism career

The rest is history.

in Homa Bay in the mid-1990s),

newsroom

editing a story from

Uasin Gishu County, when my cell

the excitement of being part of

phone rang. The caller, a close

Today, I am three months old at the

devolution process and anxiety of

friend, sounded excited and had no

Homa Bay County government and

doing something different buoyed me

time for pleasantries. “Omera! We

my in-tray is full. I miss my former

to take up the new challenge. Homa

want you to devolve yourself to the

desk and my HP desktop computer

Bay Governor - Cyprian Otieno Awiti

counties. We want you to take up a

at The Standard’s Mombasa Road

- the man popularly known here

new job, would you agree to resign?”

offices. I also miss my former

as ‘Bwana Akuba’ (The big man)

he asked with a tinge of arrogance.

neighbours in office - wordsmiths

welcomed me with open arms.

Linda Bach, Gathenya Njaramba,

quickly learnt my job description was

Later that evening, I met him at a

Ann Mukei and man of God Phillip

loaded with enormous challenges.

Nairobi’s

restaurant.

Mambili. But I am equally excited in

I knew from conversations with the

Seventeen days later, I gathered

my new office from where I have a

senior staff, it would not be smooth

courage and penned a resignation

panoramic view of the scenic Asego

sailing. The staff - including the

letter. My six years stint at Kenya’s

Hills and the charming Lake Victoria.

Governor, his deputy and the county

oldest

downtown

newspaper

had

come

I

executives had very high expectations.

to an end. I was leaving the

So why did I resign from The Standard

They claimed they had been starved

newsroom. I got a job at Homa

where I worked as a regional editor

of media coverage and would rely on

Bay County government as Director

to plunge into the world of the

me to up the game.

of

unknown, given that devolution is just

22

Communications.

My

friends


I offered my sympathies but opted

by his handlers to buy a chase car

not to give a promise because I knew

with a siren to clear traffic. I am not

the situation was not all that bad. I

saying this because I work for him. It

had been reading stories about the

is just an example of how the media

county, but the local leaders felt this

has stereotyped the governors.

was not enough. A senior official complained that the Governor had

In fact, the media has not given its

not been featured on any of the

best on covering devolution. We

national TV stations ever since he took office. Mr Awiti’s aides counted key functions they held without any news coverage. Such was the situation as I settled down to work. I had to meet the high expectations. I am still trying to do that. “We

had

a

massive

three-day

conference in Mbita on ‘the Homa Bay we want’ and there was no mention in the mainstream media,” one aide told me. He added: “I saw many news crews at the function but

dogging devolution and the myths making devolution misunderstood. I have witnessed why most journalists often get their facts wrong while covering devolution. There has also been little attempt by journalists to demystify devolution and simplify the process. Many Kenyans still do not know the devolved functions. Instead, much attention has been put on the governors. For

at the end, they did not write a story.”

instance, very little has been covered

Many county staff, who had read

concentrate on sideshows, instead

my articles for years were excited to meet me.

They were hopeful that

all media issues, including negative publicity would be resolved. Towards the end of the first week, a senior staff confronted me waving a copy of a daily newspaper. “Look at what they have written about us. Can

on the County Assemblies. We often of analysing the quality of debate and motions likely to impact on the common man. At times, the media air or publish stories on the governors without checking their facts. This is a threat to devolution as it paints a picture of a

you tell them to stop?” he fumed.

system on the verge of collapse.

I am directly in charge of the

fire-fighting mode. During my short

Governor’s press service. I write for him speeches, organise media coverage and advise him on media matters. More often than not, I do the same to his deputy, Mr Hamilton Orata, members of the executive and the County Service Board. It is not an easy task. Besides the office work, I must accompany the Governor to key functions across the county. My short stint in office has given me a direct peep into the world of county governments, the challenges

It also puts governors on a permanent tour of duty in the countryside, I have noticed many governors mean well for Kenyans and are working under tough conditions. My Governor, for example, has been using his personal vehicle, a 2004 Toyota Land Cruiser for official transport. He has no chase car or a platoon of bodyguards. Whenever he is in Kisumu he dines and sleeps in middle level hotels. He has on several occasions, resisted attempts

should put the governors on their toes - pricking them once in a while, but also tell the good side. We should help them reach out to more strategic investors rather than portraying them as gluttons and failures. Besides the Standard Group Limited, which publishes a weekly paper expressly

on

devolution,

other

media houses have dedicated only a few pages to county governments. Often good stories from the counties rarely get into the pages of national newspapers. But who is to blame here, the reporters or the gatekeepers? It is not a secret that county governments have become a source of advertisement revenue for media firms. Hence, it is only prudent to match this massive revenue with fair coverage. For the few months I have been part of the devolved government, it has become evident that some criticisms against governors are exaggerated. Lastly, one of my biggest challenges is fitting into the political system. I have to repackage myself, juggle professionalism and politics because I am serving a political office where some may not be in a hurry to embrace change. Mr John Oywa, a former journalist with The Standard and Nation, is the Director of the Governor’s Press Service, Homa Bay County. john.oywa@gmail.com 23


Media ownership and convergence under devolution Othieno Nyanjom

The media is critical to the full implementation of the Constitution, including

wonders

what

its greatest devolution needs. Othieno Nyanjom discusses the scope for

impact an effective

devolving media operations to the counties.

media

in

Kenya’s

history of phlegmatic democracy might have had on the injustices that have cultured these welfare disparities. Since government is being devolved to the counties, this note gives some thought to the scope for devolving the media as a means of enhancing its information and oversight roles in relation to the management of development. Legal frameworks Article 6 (2) of the Constitution provides for “governments at the national and county levels

K

are distinct and inter-dependent

enyan

literacy

is

lowest

among the regions whose

on the scope for devolving radio operations to the counties.

of

independence

Kenya has been in flux since the

has consigned them to ignominious

August 2010 promulgation of a

welfare

new

attainments,

such

as

constitution

which

provides

comparatively high maternal and

for the devolution of development

child deaths and low life expectancy.

management to 47 counties. This

Such

such

restructuring responds to the country’s

regions to champion demands for

50 years of mismanaged development

devolution of national government,

which has resulted in gross inequalities.

leading to the Constitution mandating

These regional disparities result from

decentralisation of all state services

a mismanagement enabled, inter

to the counties, as practicable. For

alia, by the tyranny of the silence of a

such regions, the radio is the most

centrally controlled media. Meanwhile,

accessible element of the formal

Armatya Sen has previously illustrated

media. Consequently, this note on

– contestably – that optimal use of

the media under Kenya’s constitution

a free media in a democracy can

mandated

avert famines.

24

marginalisation

led

transformation

focuses

Article

6

(3)

requires

each

“national State organ (to) ensure

unjust treatment over 50 years

(but consult and cooperate).”

Consequently, one

reasonable access to its services in all parts of the Republic, so far as it is appropriate to do so having regard to the nature of the service.” Also, the Constitution’s Bill of Rights (Chapter Four) must be interpreted to favour the fundamental freedoms of the media, conscience, religion, expression, belief and opinion. But Article 31 protects society from the media by guaranteeing privacy over private and family affairs while Article 46 protects the consumers’ rights to quality goods and services, and to full information about them.


Meanwhile, Part IVA of the Kenya Information and Communications Act

of

1998

Communications

provides

for

Commission

the of

Kenya’s management of broadcasting services, requiring it to “promote… a diverse range of broadcasting services… (observing) pubic interest obligations (and) a plurality of views (in) a competitive marketplace of ideas (S.46A(a)).” Section 46B (1) provides for public, private, and community

broadcasting,

with

46D specifying licensing eligibility criteria, which include technical and financial capacity. Section 8 (1) of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act mandates the Corporation – hereafter, KBC – to ‘independently and impartially broadcast (... news) information, education and entertainment, in English and Kiswahili and in such other languages (emphasis added)...with impartial attention to the interests and susceptibilities of Kenyan diversity… as the Corporation may determine.’ KBC is also mandated to consult with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and political parties on the fair coverage of election issues. Media operations in Kenya Kenyan formal media ownership debates have partly grown out of the country’s historical centralised political repression despite the promotion of economic liberalism for private sector growth. The government was content to surreptitiously control the mainstream press, which had pre-dated independence, but whose foreign owners fully appreciated the ‘buttered side of their bread’. However, it retained KBC’s near monopoly of the electronic media inordinately long into independence. Thus, while the missionary Radio

Kijabe dates back to the 1950s, the

for such agencies to distinguish

earliest attempts at independence– era liberalisation include a short-lived Homa Bay community radio station (1982), Kameme FM’s go-stop-go privilege of 2000, and SK Macharia contemporaneous license battles before servile courts. Thus, the mainstream media has historically been largely Nairobi based in ownership, policy and management, despite extensive liberalisation into the Millennium. Given the government’s status as a major private media revenue source, beneficiary media houses had to dance to its tune, as The Weekly Review learnt to its great discomfiture. In those contexts, the Kenyan media could arguably not have lived up to Sen’s watchdog role: but with Kenya’s transformative Constitution and its devolution, can the media now become the ultimate watchdog over welfare injustices?

their activities for mediation by the National Government as opposed to those by any or all the County Governments. The assignment of functions by the Constitution’s Fourth Schedule provides a good starting point for such non-State agencies’ review of their service delivery structures.

As suggested above, non-State agencies should also voluntarily consider restructuring to optimise the outreach of their operations. Where hitherto the central government had mediated between such agencies and the market, it will be necessary

Devolving the broadcast media For the comprehensive implementation of constitutional devolution, decentralising the broadcast media offers vast localised opportunities for civic education and citizen participation in priority identification, planning, and monitoring and evaluating implementation. In effect, such a media offers a greater opportunity of for keeping county governments on their toes, than is likely to be availed by the constitutional proviso that governors and county assemblies must be accessible to the populace – wenye nchi. The rest of this note briefly reviews the context for the sustainable devolution of the three categories of broadcast licences. 25


Public broadcaster While Section of 46B of the Kenya Information and Communications Act (2009) clearly declares KBC a public – and therefore non-partisan – broadcaster, successive regimes treated is a government mouthpiece, even ignoring the 1997 Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group’s exhortations to share air-time equitably during political campaigns. However, the Constitution and legislation, including electoral statutes, have since reinforced KBC’s fundamental independence. Thus given the provisions mentioned above, the

access to, this opportunity has hitherto not been optimally exploited. However, KBC’s scope for decentralisation could be constrained by the subtle anti-devolutionists in key government positions, who might be uncomfortable with the risk of independent regional opinions on issues, especially given the highly bipartisan Kenya politics (of 2007 and 2013). Indeed, it is likely that even if KBC decentralised, the regions would be hard-pressed to hold an independent editorial line even when it is logical to do so. An additional problem for decentralised stations in lagging regions could be a

the extensive pull of the enterprise. One can use the distribution of Kenyan advertising revenues as a gauge of the relative popularity of local-language (L-L) broadcasting. Further evidence is provided by the performance of some international L-L broadcasts, such as BBC’s. While private broadcasters arguably have a greater revenue scope than the public broadcaster (beyond government sources), their viability will depend on the balance between the commercial and political motives, an excess of politics – i.e. political propaganda, likely constraining the potential outreach, thereby deterring crucial advertising. As is evident in the current market, commercial advertisers can maximise aggregate outreach by switching from the secular to the religious, and indeed, by having the odd politician on board. While the political broadcaster can also air religious material, the audience is invariably pre-determined by the owner’s known political stance (in a recent electoral contest, for example).

foregoing justifies a muted 2012 KBC proposal to decentralise broadcasting to the counties, which would enable the multilingual coverage of diverse topics reflecting sensitivity to the status of Kenyans in the counties.

weak individual ability to attract nongovernment advertising revenues, due to the advertisers’ anticipated loss of scale economies. The resulting bargaining with advertisers could undermine editorial independence.

The Kenyan evidence is that some private broadcasters have Spartan resources that barely keep them afloat. However, others have extensive venture muscle enabling (further) media convergence, and the hire and retention of highly professional but often malleable staff working in wellresourced contexts. These comparative endowments seem to shape the

Besides its advantaged status as the public broadcaster – which should arguably attract optimal government resources, KBC has a decentralisation head start in already having the largest number of radio and TV frequencies across the country – whether operational or dormant. While the government is also a major source of media advertising revenue which KBC could have preferential 26

Private broadcasters For private broadcasting, an important determinant of the scope for devolution would be the primary objective of the investment, whether it is commercial, political or social. The explosion in Kenyan electronic media outlets since the Homa Bay-based NGO’s 1982 misadventure reflects

scope for generating revenues, and for consequent sustainability. For example, advertisers might prefer the scale economies from dealing with a single broadcaster with a broad outreach, than with multiple localised broadcasters. The revenue factor aside, politically-driven media outlets are likely to have a narrower, editorially regulated agenda than commercial outlets. The former


are therefore unlikely to benefit the devolution context as could be the case with the profit-driven outlets whose main concern is audience maximisation. While commercial investors are likely to allow editorial freedom, even they have a watershed beyond which parochial interests (try to) dictate policy and practice. Community radio stations On decentralisation considerations, the community radio stations (CRS) are a totally ‘different kettle of fish’ – at least on paper. By statute and conceptualisation, CRS are socially motivated, rather than politically or commercially motivated. Section 46H of the Kenya Information and Communications Act requires them to be “a not-for-profit community initiative, with an intention of involving the community in its management and benefits.” Their licensing application must include “minutes of meeting(s) that resolved on the need to establish the service (with the explicit intention to) reinvest in their respective domains…” The Act requires that such stations be fully controlled by a non-profit entity, and encourage management participation by members of the community targeted by the station. Finally, since they are non-profit entities, the Act provides that they may be financed through “donations, grants, sponsorships or membership fees, or by any combination of the aforementioned.” These statutory CRS characteristics constitute both strengths and weaknesses. While injections from well-wishers can periodically uplift, CRS fundamentally have a weak financial base which constraints the adequacy of their establishment

(quality and numbers of staff, and equipment). The emphasis on their participatory management provides an opportunity for focusing on local priorities determined by the contexts in which they are embedded. Yet, the development literature is rapt with examples of elite capture in such community-managed initiatives: such elites’ periodic goodwill often comes with some baggage (of private demands). In the context of the civic education role under devolution, however, the well organised CRS can benefit greatly from the plethora of funding opportunities presented by development partner-programmes, such as AMKENI waKenya and Uraia. Indeed, an important capacity building investment in the context would be one that enables CRS to in the first instance, prepare plausible funding proposals. Notwithstanding the statutory outlawing of their commercialisation, CSRs arguably have the deepest penetration, which should be attractive to marketers. Yet these micro broadcast outlets do not have the seamless population coverage for cost-effective advertising. Given the poverty levels of most of their typical catchment areas, an argument could be made for reviewing the restrictions of revenue-generation. Indeed, CRS resource constraints have led to many of them surreptitiously violating the volunteering spirit of the enabling legislation. There is evidence, for example, of CRS on Constituency

Development Fund ‘payrolls’, meaning the fund management can compromise editorial independence. Yet, appropriate structures could be instituted to enable public funding of CRS. There is every justification for amending legislation to enable CRS to serve their catchment populations, especially with regard to a civic education that improves community capacity for participation in the management of devolution. Conclusions While the public electronic media’s position on devolving service delivery is pre-determined by legislation, there are likely benefits for the private media in following suit, depending on whether the investor’s motive is commercial, political or social. The public broadcaster should be most effective in championing civic education and citizen participation: yet this depends on the extent of commitment to realising devolution. The private broadcaster’s commitment will be mediated by the extent to which related programming provides a political and/or commercial return. The community stations are in a sense even better-paced than the public provider for effective civic education and citizen participation since they are embedded in their targeted audiences; yet they face serious resource constraints which can undermine their editorial independence. Balancing these concerns will be critical for the media role in devolution. Othieno Nyanjom is a researcher and consultant on development issues including media, public spending

and

governance.

othieno_n@yahoo.co.uk

27


Media’s role pertinent in constitution implementation and devolution Valerie Okumu

The onerous implementation of the constitution rests with all stakeholders, the media included. Valerie Okumu implores the media to interrogate actions and pronouncements that impact on the implementation of devolution.

K

enyans

placed

the struggle into the promulgation of

citizens in the society, the media

great expectation on the

the Constitution 2010 only formed

among other key stakeholders, has

implementation

the

the beginning of a long road to

to stay faithful to the implementation

Constitution of Kenya 2010,

actualising envisaged reforms. The

of devolution. The constitution has

which is founded on a very strong

implementation of the Constitution

set the highest possible goals for

value system. Among the values is

is therefore very fundamental and

both

the concept of government as an

critical in delivering the aspirations of

in the achievement of the cause.

instrument

efficient

the people so as to enable Kenyans

Accordingly,

public service delivery to the people,

live their dream as expressed in their

understand its obligation as part of

with

expression for the ‘Kenya they want”.

our continuing struggle as a country,

for

Kenyan

have

ensuring expecting

of

that

the

Constitution will provide a new lease of

institutions the

and

individuals

media

should

their purpose in this historic strive,

life. This position justifies the people’s

The media among other key players

and this will provide the sustaining

high expectation for the Constitution

must not relent, but intensify their

force, that will ensure the symbolic

and especially devolution, a reaction

actions in order to oblige to the

birth of Kenya’s “Second Republic”.

to the failures of the past system of

social force that binds key actors

Taking personal responsibility as a

government and hence a safeguard

to the courses of action demanded

journalist working in a community of

to the implementation of devolution.

by the effective implementation of

others, ever faithful to the cause, will

However, to merely raise expectation

the Constitution.

In doing so, the

get us farther than submitting to the

without achieving success almost

media should in the delivery of their

edicts of media houses. Yes, in this

always leads to frustration and

duty and responsibility, capture and

historic journey, civic duty demands

disillusion.

highlight the spirit of resistance to

that one must remain accountable as

implementation of the significant

an individual for their contribution to

The struggle for the reforms envisaged

gains

the cause.

by the constitution is rooted in the

the Constitution as well as good

people’s desire to correct historical

will

injustices advanced by a highly

implementation.

in

reforms

demonstrated

envisaged towards

in the

centralised system of government.

While the media has continued to play its role in the implementation process, it must remain conscious of

The objective of the struggle was to

If Kenya is to attain its aspirations to

its actions. It has become the trend by

reinstate the sovereign power to the

achieve development while promoting

media houses to follow up on selected

people of Kenya. The culmination of

the opportunities of the common

individual public officials and political

28


leaders’ utterances and activities on

perceptions that do not often serve

of devolution. Securing the effective

implementation of devolution in total

the common good.

implementation of these objectives

exclusion of other key actors. Without

Forthwith, the media must correct this

would address virtually all the major

rigorous

their

scenario by matching the publicity

governance challenges that afflicted

pronouncements and actions, yet

given to public officers and politicians

the country under the centralised

presenting them as news, the media

with that given to the public. Media

governance system.

has in the process allowed personal

must institute a strategy to bring

would government be used to serve

opinion to carry the day and created

the people of Kenya’s voice in the

the people of Kenya as opposed

some sort of “devolution experts”.

decisions sought to implement the

to government being used as an

Consequently, the public relies upon

Constitution

instrument for accessing resources

the “experts” for information and

devolved system of government.

and

commentary

The media needs to ensure that

aggrandise individuals.

on

on

issues

touching

specifically

the

opportunities

intended

to

constitution that might not necessarily

is really being reflected in the news

It is important to realise that the

be factual and for the most part

media on matters of implementation

implementation of the constitution

are

opinions.

of the constitution. Certainly not in

is both a legal and political process

The implementation process has

politicised fora where the people are

where competing interest are at play

therefore been left at the mercy of

reduced to spectators cheering on the

and therefore, the process could

the “devolution experts”.

We have

selfish interests. The media must also

be easily captured by a few elites.

run into the risk of sacrificing the

seek to play a critical role in informing

The stakes are so high and are

implementation

the

the public to enable them make

driven by ethno-regional, business,

altar of media created “devolution

informed decisions and henceforth

political, and business interest as

experts” who would circumvent the

create a forum for free expression

well as religious and professional

implementation process whenever

and discussion of the implementation

concerns

it suits.

issues.

To this extent media must

country’s determination to realise the

devoted

initiate constitutional dialogue on

governance reforms envisaged in the

to the advancement of democracy

key issues that advocates for a more

Constitution must be accompanied

especially in such a critical process.

people centered processes, debates

by a robust defence of the objectives

It has been the case that the “experts”

and decisions.

of devolution against self interests.

minds on issues before defining

Further, the media should always

Valerie N. Okumu is a Senior

the facts.

but

personal

agenda

of

and

Then only

the ‘common mwanainchi’s voice

just

implementation

of

the

the

the

interrogation

at

This poses a challenge to

constitutional

gains

among

others.

The

have for the most part made up their When such actions and

seek to interrogate actions and

Programme

pronouncements make news, the

pronouncements that impact on the

Government Thematic Area at the

public is inevitably subjected to partial

implementation of the Constitution

Commission for the Implementation

truths, with political inclinations. The

and devolution by its adequacy or

of the Constitution.

misinformation then shapes public

lack of it to deliver on the objectives

valenangidi@yahoo.com

Officer,

Devolved

29


The county is the new king in newsmaking The 47 counties in Kenya have become major sources of news for both local and international media. Naisula Lesuuda explains why great focus will now shift to the devolved units.

J

Naisula Lesuuda

ust as devolved governance has already become a reality in Kenya, so is an emerging media regime whose focus is increasingly regional. The truth is that Kenya now has 48 newsmaking centres, all competing to secure their share of national voice and recognition. This new media dynamic calls for a rethink in the manner that counties, which are the new centres of action, will be profiled and accorded a chance to tell their story. If you ask me, this is urgent. A number of concrete actions need to be taken to ensure that the coverage of the goings-on in the counties creates a uniform effect that does not promote some counties while portraying others as inactive or forgotten. This important and onerous task belongs squarely to the national government. The national government can take a number of measures to ensure that no region feels cut off from the rest of the country. I have three propositions concerning what the national government can do in this regard. One, the Kenya News Agency (KNA) network should be restructured and refocused afresh in order to

30

effectively tell the story of each county and region in an equitable manner. Thankfully, already KNA boasts a countrywide office network that covers virtually every corner of Kenya. In the past when the epicenter of newsmaking was Nairobi, KNA was left to struggle with a lot of information and news that did not attract much attention at the national level. With governors right in their jurisdictions now creating news on an on-going basis and individual counties seeking to tell their stories every passing moment, there is a good chance to make KNA a more active vehicle for nationally relevant regional news. Secondly, in designing the proposed Press Centre where national news will be centrally aggregated, the national government should take cognisance of the peculiarities that characterise various counties. I consider this to

be important because, while, say a cow is greater news in Nairobi as beef, it is a totally different thing in say, Samburu. In the latter a cow will be viewed more predominantly as a unit of wealth while in the city, the same animal will attract more attention as food. Therefore, there is a need for a complete re-orientation of newsmakers’ mindsets if we are to satisfy the varying worldviews, expectations and levels of exposure of a nationwide audience. The solution to this critical requirement is training. Thirdly, the national government should create a mechanism to regulate all content channeled through the various media outlets domiciled within the counties. This regulation should not choke the freedom of expression in any way but it must create a solid sense of ownership and responsibility by locals for their own county. At the same time media


outlets based at the county must promote unitary interests that enhance nationalism and patriotism whilst using the county as a unit of negotiation of a deep sense of love for Kenya and pride in a nation bound by a common destiny.

The media has its hands full on devolution

At the county level, the media has its work cut out. Of the long list of how the media can promote the wellbeing or dreams of the county, I pick two that are crucial. First, since each county (at least ideally) has a list of priorities the county bound media coverage must be fully appraised of the goals that each county, the governor and County Assembly aim at achieving. In the absence of this checklist, the press is likely to judge the achievements of governors, county assemblies and county bureaucracies with the wrong yardstick. Unless you tell your story, the press is likely to create and tell one for you. The remedy for this likely eventuality is to engage with media and empower them to do what they are trained to do and what they do best – tell about you. So, every county leadership should aspire to partner with the media in designing its story. Second, every county should establish which media houses hold sway on opinion among its residents. In so doing nationwide media as well as county-based media houses including community radios must be acknowledged. With such a map, it is easy to know which voice to use for what audience and to what effect. I believe this is important because through the media a single message can be distributed quickly to thousands of people. Through the same channels information and influence that can translate to attitude change at mass scale can be attained. This is precisely how social progress is engineered. The media are, no doubt, the most effective catalyst in this process. On the whole, I see the county becoming the nerve-centre of newsmaking and public influencer in the foreseeable future. There is a need then to enhance the capacity of devolved governments to create national news and in the process settle in devolution once and for all. Naisula Lesuuda is a nominated Senator. nasurem50@gmail.com

The coverage of the devolution process by the media has been very critical. Amos Kibet gives a preview of findings from the Media Council of Kenya’s monitoring of media performance on covering of devolution. Amos Kibet

T

he role of the media during the process of devolution cannot be gainsaid.

Whereas

the

media’s

role in covering devolution is indispensable,

the freedom of information is the cornerstone to good governance, meaningful participation and efficiency in enhancing transparency at the county and even national levels of government. The Media Council of Kenya through its media monitoring unit monitors how the media has covered the devolution process. The findings from two reports indicate that the media has not readily and fully embraced its role during the devolution process. The media as the fourth estate should be poised to undertake 31


effective coverage of devolution by

The media must take a lead role

on special segment coverage can

focusing on the objects and principles

in

on

set the agenda on devolution. It is

of devolution as enshrined in the

successes and best practice and

important to understand that the

Constitution 2010. Such coverage

success stories of different counties

agenda-setting role and influence of

should be aimed at expounding

which can be replicated in other

the media is not limited to the initial

the legal and policy framework on

counties as well. Lastly, the media

step of focusing public attention on

devolution.

also

benchmarking;

bears

reporting

the

responsibility

of

devolution process alone. The media

and

education

the

also has tremendous influence in the

The role of the media in the

public on the virtues, opportunities,

communication process which shapes

devolution process

and challenges of the devolution

our understanding and perspective

process. An informed citizenry is an

of devolution.

sensitising

Devolution should be understood as a

empowered lot that can embrace

process and not an event. The media

opportunities and face the challenges

How the media portrays devolution

should therefore provide sufficient

of devolution.

through its coverage is important.

information

and

The heart of devolution lies in proper

communication

that will facilitate this process. The

The media should however not forget

public

media as the Fourth Estate can play

its role of availing information to

this translates to empowerment on

a central role during the process of

the citizens and empowering them

issues of devolution. The media has

devolution. The media must perform

to participate in the development

extensively concentrated on the fact

its watchdog role and become the

discourse at the county and be

that devolution is a political process.

lenses through which the society

able to play part in defining their

The

looks into the devolved corrupt

development

leadership

devolution means nothing less than

practices that might be perpetrated

agenda. The media then should

creation of expanded political space

by those elected to govern counties

be a public sphere not only for

accompanied

and

resources.

reporting but also for analysing

done as a mere formality.

The media has an important role

county priorities, targets and action.

in

and

Above all, the media should perform

In healthy democracies, members

transparency in governance and also

this role within the framework of the

of the public are the agenda-setters

in resource utilisation, leadership

Code of Conduct for the Practice of

on devolution issues. This is because

and stewardship. The media will

Journalism in Kenya. They should

they

have to report aggressively on good

be fair, analytical, balanced and

their role in devolution process.

governance and ensure transparency

independent in their reportage. In

Therefore they are able to steer

among leaders.

other words they should be truthful

healthy conversations and discussion

and therefore reliable as a source of

on devolution through the media. In

county devolution messages.

weaker democracies the mass media

manage ensuring

county

accountability

Secondly, the media is charged with the

responsibility

challenges

of

and

and

expectations through communicating

perception

by

understand

because

created

is

that

decentralisation

and

appreciate

sets the agenda. The media directs

highlighting managing

communication

The agenda setting role of the

its audience on issues it thinks are

media

“important.� This is apparently the case with devolution. Little discussion

clear and accurate messages to the public; such as unlikely uniform

The media agenda setting role

seems to emanate from the public on

realisation of equity in size or pace of

on

deliberate

devolution and the media grabs the

growth. Further, the media needs to

coverage of topics or events related

opportunity to feed the minds of its

focus on policy reforms by extensively

to devolution with the goal of

audience with the sensational news

discussing

influencing

on devolution.

transition

mechanisms

devolution

is

public

policy.

The

the

opinion print

and

and policy implementation during

public

media

the devolution process.

with flashy and punchy headlines, allocation of more space and even

32

Who is the guardian of devolution?


The media should play a watchdog

Implementation of the Constitution

segment can be keenly followed by

role and ensure that devolution

(CIC) and the Transition Authority

the management of counties

is

as

(TA) have been quite objective in their

The media can assist counties to

enshrined in the constitution. The

alarm over threats on devolution

execute their legal requirement under

media’s credibility as a democratic

since they do so with a clarification

the County Governments Act Number

institution is enhanced if they are

of the legal framework that guides

17 of 2012 section 93. The counties

accountable to the public. This

such contentious issues that are seen

should also enhance media freedom

same credibility is also enhanced if

to cause a threat.

which is a requirement of this act and

meticulously

implemented

it becomes the lenses through which

such a harmonious relationship will

threats on devolution are examined

The analysis on the Letters to the

be beneficial to both stakeholders.

and reported for public knowledge

Editor

However, reporting on devolution

and good. On the reverse, it is

by the public on threats against

has

important to note that a sensational

devolution. Most of the discussion

among

and trigger happy press does not

on this was spearheaded by experts

as they try to play their watchdog

contribute to intelligent discussion

in the commentary section of the

role in the implementation of the

and debate on issues devolution

newspapers.

the

constitution. Already emerging are

but should examine and report

awareness and participation of the

some of the challenges with regards

all allegations carefully from all

public in defending and guarding

to media reporting on devolution

quarters.

devolution from threats that are both

including the un-friendly manner

perceived and imagined.

in which county governments and

found

minimal

This

discussion

questions

Threats on devolution have been

remained many

a

balancing

Kenya

act

journalists

officials operate. Local journalists

sounded by different individuals,

The concept and process of devolution

based at the county levels are

constitutional

is a new and complex one and some

now complaining of intimidation

even

journalists are still grappling with its

and bureaucracy within the entire

international organisations through

coverage. Journalists have tended

structure of county governments on

the media. Sometimes the threats

to focus on the sensational news

sensitive information dissemination.

have unfortunately degenerated into

of devolution while leaving out the

Journalists in many counties are

a blame game in some quarters with

essential and important aspects.

finding it difficult to effectively cover

religious

bodies,

bodies

politicians, and

the media being used as a platform

devolved system of governments

for the verbal fights. From the media

The media should be the public’s

especially county assembly sessions

analysis done by the Media Council,

watchdog and raise a red flag on

and that there is need for them to be

the senators have largely blamed

favouritism, nepotism, corruption,

trained on parliamentary reporting

the National Assembly and the

regional imbalance and ethnic based

and devolution in general. This is

executive for planning to sabotage

appointments done in the counties.

an aspect which the Media Council

the devolution process. The executive

It

investigative

of Kenya has undertaken and will

arm of government in turn has been

journalism to unearth the cases of

continue undertaking in the spirit of

blamed by the opposition (politicians

corruption that can be perpetrated

enhancing proper implementation of

not in the ruling coalition) for failure

even as structures of devolution are

devolution.

to abide by the constitutional and

being laid.

legal framework guiding devolution.

The media should also seek ways

Amos Kibet is the Research & Media

Governors who have been covered

of ensuring that the public’s voice

Monitoring Officer at the Media

by the media in their press briefings

is heard over the media. Special

Council of Kenya.

through the Governor’s Council seem

segments at the end of the news

Kibet.amos@mediacouncil.or.ke

to side with senators on different

bulletins should be accorded to the

issues with regards to the threat on

members of the public to comment

devolution. The constitutional bodies

on issues affecting devolution and

including the Commission for the

their counties as a whole. Such a

should

undertake

33


Social networking amid devolution of power and resources The social media is a two-edged David Ohito sword, which journalists must use carefully even as the new county units take shape, writes David Ohito.

T

he

social

media

has

The media has played

revolutionised the way media

a critical role in Kenya’s

houses source, break and

reform process, ensuring

render stories, photographs

Kenyans

are

informed,

and videos on all platforms whether

educated,

broadcast, print or online. In short,

and given their rightful

the social media is a reality that has

opportunity to participate

overhauled the operations of all

in governance. The media

media houses.

plays a crucial role in the devolution

entertained

implementation process by promoting Without necessarily altering journalistic

constitutionalism and did an excellent

basics of the five Ws and the H of

work in the run up to the elections

journalism (Who? What? Where?

and after as devolution unfolds.

When? Why? and How?), social media has broken new ways of

At the core of media intervention,

telling stories differently, faster and

including the social media aspect,

even better. Kenya’s uptake of the

has been the issue of transition, which

social media within newsrooms has

they carried out comprehensively

been tremendous with an impressive

and largely responsibly. But there

number of online journalists and

were hiccups and challenges facing

editors

while

individual journalists and media

audiences grow at terrific speed.

houses. The big question is when

Most newsrooms are adjusting faster

does a journalist make a personal

to these technological disruptions.

comment on social media, which

being

recruited,

should not be linked to their profession So, how has the social media

or employer? The media has played

impacted Kenyan journalists and

a vital role in ensuring Kenyans

media houses while covering another

remain vigilant in safeguarding the

new

devolution?

letter and spirit of the Constitution.

The Constitution ushered in a new

The media has blown the whistle and

governance

raised the red flag when devolution is

system

called structure

after

the

March 4, 2013 General Election. 34

under threat.

In social media, journalists use these popular platforms to scale up the reach of their stories beyond the geographical confines of the physical distribution and circulation of newspapers or the reach of frequencies allocated to radio and television. Social media is being used to build and recruit fresh audiences for all stories including those on devolution. Social media embeds this story giving it permanency on the digital platform. When the followers share such a story, the reach is replicated. In The Standard on Sunday edition of September 1, 2013, an opinion piece by commentator Wainaina Ndung’u –‘Ten Critical pillars for truly effective devolution’, another by lawyer Kethi Kilonzo entitled ‘Devolution rollout: Is the new order half full or half empty?’ talks of how Senate has powers to create model laws and policies. In the same paper, a commissioner with the


Commission for the Implementation

These stories are then propelled by

Assembly and the Senate. While the

of the Constitution (CIC) Kamotho

journalists tasked with managing

National Assembly and the Senate

Waiganjo pens another article on

social media platforms (often the

are both parts of Parliament and

the need to align devolution to

online news desk team) sharing them

members of both houses are MPs

service delivery and empowerment,

and multiplying their reach.

these terms confused many in the

and pitches for the case of how an

In short, a story which appeared in

days immediately after election.

effective county leadership can easily

The Daily Nation, The Standard,

transform potential into certainty and

The Star, or The People are easily

Similarly, the process of election of

translate the dreams of the county

shared on social media to reach

deputy governor created confusion

populace into reality.

the global platform through twitter

among

and Facebook, the most popular

many understand that the running

On the same day, in The Sunday

platforms in Kenya.

mate of the election winner whose

Nation, columnist Philip Ochieng’

Broadcast counterparts have used

name does not appear on the ballot

writes on why the controversy of

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, U-stream

paper automatically becomes the

devolution is likely to boil. Ochieng’

among other platforms to increase

deputy governor.

is

the reach and circulation of the audio

A begging question among media

and video content.

analysts and scholars has rotated

an

avowed

anti-devolution

campaigner who has publicly stated so in his column. And he has his

many

journalists.

Today,

around whether the coverage thus

reasons but he still calls for a lasting

Like with new dispensation there

far has been issue-based, objective,

solution on how Kenya should be

were at times confusion in the way

fair and impartial.

managed

clashes

journalists were unable to understand

Media critics pointed out that most

between the central and the devolved

some concepts of the transition to

media

governments. These are enough

devolution.

competition for audience and ratings,

reasons to justify how editors have

A

used content to preach the pros

on

and cons of devolution. Such stories

understanding their roles during

generate as much reaction on the

live TV debates. In some instances

social media platforms showing how

TV hosts lacked basic knowledge on

this platform impacts what ordinarily

the functions of governor, senator

would be flat stories on ink and

and MP. Many journalists at the start

paper.

could not distinguish the difference

to

avoid

the

case

in

senators

point

was

and

houses

leaned

towards

debates governors

between Parliament, the National 35


rather than generation of engaging

platforms

content.

participation of the members of

Packaged with the challenge for

the public when they comment

media houses in playing critical

on devolution stories and videos

watchdog role in devolution is the

objectively and when they offer a

newfound office of the governor with

voice for the voiceless in all counties.

a kitty earmarked for advertising.

By doing this they will engage user

Reporters and editors have openly

generated content on devolution.

raised concerns about how counties and some governors have become too powerful and it is almost difficult to publish negative stories. All counties have literally bought space and spent huge budgets on advertisements for job opportunities and county functions. This often comes with a caveat on relationship that courts favourable stories and silence on the criticism of county affairs. In one way it limits the freedom of the journalist but let scribes be reminded that truthful, fair and objective stories which are balanced and offer the accused a hearing, and right of reply will go along way in making coverage of devolution professional. In all these the demand has been driven by audiences demanding information in real time, journalists have

sometimes

asked

hard

questions on their personal social media accounts and carried debates into the media platforms. Some have equally used their huge following on social media platforms to be unprofessional by making partisan comments and accusations driven by vendetta. I challenge all journalists to take an audit of the comments appearing on their accounts. Many would fail the ethical test. The worse case scenario is when such comments pass for hate speech and are not grounded on truth, objectivity, facts and figures. Journalists are reminded that they bear professional and legal responsibility on their personal accounts as well as the 36

official accounts of their media houses. The best counsel would be ‘kuwa mpole’

(Stay sober on any

comments you make on social media for it is difficult for the audience to distinguish the thin line between your personal comments and those you make as a journalist). Social media is coming of age in all newsrooms and journalists and editors are responding to the challenges

with

equal

measure.

Since the emergence of the first social media networks some two decades ago, social media has continued to evolve and offer consumers around the world new and meaningful ways to engage with the people, events

to

scale

up

public

However, social media still remains an extraordinarily difficult term to pin down. Sometimes it refers to an activity of a journalist blogged sometimes or to a software tool used to scale up the audience reach. But by blogging they will be playing activism that promotes devolution and good governance in the counties. Social media is constantly mutating and

evolving;

just

when

you

think you have nailed it, a new combination

emerges,

changing

perceptions again. But whatever the precise definition, media houses are taking social tools and networks seriously.

Devolution must find its

and brands that matter to them.

rightful position on these networks

Years later, social media is still

optimize their use.

growing

rapidly,

becoming

and journalists are best placed to an

integral part of our daily lives. Social networking is now truly a global phenomenon media houses have embraced. Jobs for social media sub-editors, social media content editors and online or digital editors are increasingly being created. But what are some of the key takeaways journalists can carry from social media

reportage

of

devolution?

There are several storylines they can

Today’s

devolution

increasingly

practical.

issues

are

Some

of

the early pioneers have become disenchanted by the venom of the comments left on blogs, despite the heavy moderation. For media houses that have packaged a social media policy like The Nation Media Group, The Standard Group and the Radio Africa Group this is a positive move that will ensure coverage of devolution on social

pursue while remaining objective and

media platforms does not breach

educative. They can investigate your

the code of ethics for the practice of

governor’s expenses, whistleblowing,

journalism.

as platform for activism and protests against

bad

governance

and

Mr David Ohito is the Digital Editor

retrogressive practices which do not

at the Standard Group.

respect the constitution.

dohito@standardmedia.co.ke

The media can use social media


Why media’s oversight role is critical to successful devolution Majority of county leaders come from the same ‘ruling’ parties and the opposition is negligible. Wellingtone Nyongesa argues the media to step up its watchdog role.

A

Wellingtone Nyongesa

visit to two counties with

to county public offices as may be

to offer an oversight role and

two

provided for in this Act or any other

thus defend the public against the

law’. Since the county governments

excesses of county governments. In

in

were set up it has been an uphill task

Nandi County, we held a discussion

management of county affairs. This

for several of them to successfully

with the Speaker Edwin Cheluget

has in turn provided an obstacle on

vet and approve appointments done

who exuded confidence that his little

checks and balances to the activities

by governors. In a recent editors’

parliament will competently keep

of the new county administration.

study tour of devolution in three

Governor Cleophas Lagat and his

According to Section 8 of the County

counties; Kisumu, Nandi and Uasin

executive team on its toes.

Governments Act, the first role of

Gishu, we noted that one of the

the County Assembly is to ‘vet and

greatest challenges facing county

A look through oversight abilities of

approve nominees for appointment

governments is lack of institutions

county assemblies in such counties

main

dominant

political

parties

reveal

serious

loopholes

37


as

Kiambu,

Bungoma,

Kisumu,

recent times media has been training

where the first publication showcased

Siaya, Kwale and many others, one

its sights on commercial interests

the

wonders how checks and balances

where many media owners disregard

governors. The publication has one

will be achieved. There is a glaring

that traditional public interest remit

need for a body independent of

of journalism and define journalism

political dynamics. One that must be

primarily as a profit driven economic

born now to keep governors and their

activity. This is the great malady that

governments focused on serving the

may greatly affect media’s capacity

public. The shortcomings range from

to safeguard public interest at the

appointments, to poor budgetary

counties. For instance giant media

practices and inability to prioritise

groups such as Nation, Standard,

their development plans. At the

Royal Media and Radio Africa are

release of counties’ budget estimates

working towards spreading their

Kenyans were in shock across the

arms into the counties. However a

country when it emerged that most

keen assessment of that drive reveals

county governments had heavily

a thorough campaign by media

tilted their budgets towards recurrent

managers to develop close working

expenditure. In most counties, monies

relationships

for

whole page dedicated to individual

had been set aside for construction of

profits. Media managers have of late

governors to speak to Kenyans

new office blocks for governors and

been meeting governors and their

about their plans. The launch of such

their executives and some pleasure

executives committees to establish

product by large media corporations

seeking activities. Shameful of them

‘better’ working ties. And in such

may easily provide a forum that

all was Sh50 million set aside by the

tours to the counties you will rarely

would keep county governments on

Bungoma County government to

find among the managers an editorial

their toes if they will not be quickly

fight pornography!

representative; a media CEO who in

turned into public relations forums

modern Kenya would mostly be an

for governors. It is quite telling that

Media to play the key oversight

expert in Trade and Business may

most

role

travel with a commercial manager,

experienced journalists to manage

No institution in Kenya raised these

a business development manager

their communication departments.

matters. It was not the Ethics and

or the head of finance. Commercial

The officers are now a link between

Anti-Corruption Commission, neither

interests have therefore superseded

the county governments and the

was it the Controller of Budget or

the traditional oversight role of

press. Suffice to say then that most of

even the Auditor General. It was

media.

these heads of County governments

with

governors

the media that broke it, after which

‘war

on

land

governors

have

thieves’

by

employed

understand that it’s up to the media

the Controller of Budget took up the

While

matter. This confirms that media is

Africa appears to focus more on

the only body that must now stand up

broadcast and thereby spreading out

and take up the role of oversight to

by fighting for and acquiring more

Need to rework legislation to

ensure devolution is well managed

broadcast frequencies on the CCK

empower media

for the benefit of Kenyans.

spectrum Nation and Standard have

As it turns out media must now strive

been competing in launching print

to maintain its traditional watchdog

But how will Kenyan media play

products dedicated to counties. The

role to save the grassroots from

that role? Is it ready for it?

Standard led the way by launching

the excesses of county politicians. It

This brings me to the realities on the

in 2011, a weekly edition solely

is however becoming increasingly

ground; that the scene is changing and

dedicated to County issues. On

difficult for journalists to exercise their

thereby putting to question media’s

August 3 2013, The County Weekly

duties without interference owing

dedication to its watchdog role. In

was re-launched into The Counties

to old laws that seem to go against

38

Royal

Media

and

Radio

to take up the role of overseer to their operations.


the spirit of the new Constitution.

date continues in force and shall

Kenya”, and Section 77 of the Penal

In its recent research report titled

be construed with the alterations,

code, which prohibits acts exciting

‘Training,

adaptations,

and

disaffection against any public officer.

conditions of Kenyan Journalists’ The

exceptions necessary to bring into

The Penal code further provides for

Media Council of Kenya says “while

conformity with this constitution”.

prohibition of publications by the

media sector has grown significantly

This means operations of the media

‘minister’ without clearly stating the

since the political liberalization of

and the practice of journalism shall

grounds and procedures for a ban.

the early 1990s, the absence of

continue to be hampered by restrictive

Such laws hamper media freedom

comprehensive media policy and

legislation enacted since the colonial

and must be done away with. The

law that is protective of the sector

days until such laws are amended or

new Constitution ushered in a new

is undermining development of a

completely repealed.

dispensation in all spheres of life and

Welfare

and

working

qualifications

strong media able to play its full

gave Kenyans a complex governance

role in the democratic dispensation.”

Among others media freedom is

structure that needs a vibrant media

It is perhaps with this in mind that

restricted by legislation such as The

to offer checks and balances.

the 2010 Constitution requires a

Official Secrets Act (Chapter 187),

Such old laws like The Books and

media law be passed by August 27,

which is concerned with concealing

Newspaper Act (Chapter 111) must

2013. However, while a new media

information in the possession of

be re-worked for they still retain

Bill has been drawn, it is still not

the government. In practice this

harsh

comprehensive enough, as different

Act closes the very window the

of Newspapers, including a hefty

aspects of media, as data protection

constitution

publishers

and spectrum regulation, will still be

include the Defamation Act (Chapter

constitutional

regulated by other statues”

36), which leaves wide interpretation,

expression and information freedom

The research proceeds to show some

for example, on who a ‘public figure’

must now be supported with media-

of the discrepancies within the laws

is, what is ‘injured reputation’; and

specific legislation or laws that allow

affecting media in exercising its

provides

media to access to state information

watchdog role.

Others are the Penal code (Chapter

for

opens.

Other

limitless

Acts

penalties.

conditions Bond.

of

registration

Similarly,

section

on

the free

required by the public.

63), and The Public Order Act It says in the executive summary:

(Chapter 57), and the law of Sedition

Mr Wellingtone Nyongesa is the

The sixth schedule (Article 262)

which defines seditious acts as the

News

Section 7(1) of the 2010 constitution

intention to, among others, “bring

wnyongesa@standardmedia.co.ke

states that

into hatred or contempt to or to excite

immediately

“all laws in force before

the

effective

Editor

at

Radio

Maisha.

disaffection among the inhabitants of 39


The Media Council’s role expands Oloo Janak Being the leading institution in the regulation of media and the conduct and discipline of journalists, the Media Council of Kenya’s role has now extended to the counties, thanks to devolution. As Oloo Janak reports, there is need for a mutually beneficial framework between the Council and the media.

T

he

Devolution

the other national institutions are

with the new constitution, is currently

national

going to relate with the county

before the National Assembly for

discourse for a long time

governments. This will call for a

debate. The Bill in its current form

and has, since the March

structured engagement between all

provides for the Council to establish

4, 2013 General Elections, emerged

public institutions and the devolved

other offices across the country.

one of the most engaging debates.

governments.

The Media Council of Kenya has

has

issue

of

dominated

Immediately the nation overcame the

grown over the last six years and has

shock and anger associated with the

Underlying the principle of devolution

increasingly established itself as an

contestations around the presidential

is the need for taking services closer

important national media institution,

election outcome and the Supreme

to the people and facilitating their

providing a critical convergence point

Court ruling, devolution took over

engagement

decision-making,

for media stakeholders and related

as the most riveting national issue.

implementation and monitoring to

institutions and indeed journalists

The question of how the National

hold those in charge, the duty bearers,

to debate, lobby and advocate for

Government and indeed national

accountable and transparent in the

policy and legislation that affects the

public institutions will engage with

discharge of those duties and the

industry.

the rest of Kenya within the context

delivery of the services. It is within

The

of devolution is already a key issue.

this context that the Media Council of

national mandate which, among

At the core of this is the relationship

Kenya (MCK) must prepare to engage

others, cover oversight of ethical

between the national Government

with

governments,

issues, training standards, arbitration,

and the County Governments and

subject to the provisions of the new

mediation and shaping the legal and

to what extent the latter is keen on,

media legislation that is expected to

policy changes in the country. The

not only letting go, but adequately

be passed by the National Assembly

County Governments are important

facilitating the counties to establish

soon.

political, social and economic entities

the

in

devolved

themselves as new centers of political,

Council

has

an

important

which have already began to attract

economic and social powers. That

The Media Bill 2013, which is

intense media attention. If Devolution

debate is now expanding to how

expected to align the Media Act 2007

is implemented faithfully and the

40


develop an engagement framework informed by not only legal but practical and operational realities on the ground in different areas. It must be understood that there are regions and communities who feel that the pattern of media ownership in the country and manner in which the media have been reporting or

portraying

them,

have

not

only marginalized them but have been hostile, condescending, and perhaps, deliberately so. This has been viewed from the political, County

root,

Examples include the Meru Region,

these will be powerful institutions

Machakos, Coast Region, especially

and regions that will attract media

Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale, Taita

investment.

Taveta, Kajiado, South Rift, North

Indeed, already, most of the counties

Rift, Busia, Nyeri, Muranga, Kisumu,

are on the verge of establishing media

Bungoma,

outlets; radio, TV and newspapers.

among others.

There are also many enterprising

There is a growing presence of both

individuals from various counties

print and radio media outlets in the

who either have already established

different regions of Kenya and these

some media or are in the process of

will increase in the next few years,

doing so.

which obviously call for Media Council

Many

Governments

governments

Kakamega,

Homabay,

have

oversight and active engagement.

key

There is also a growing concentration

journalists to work in their regions

of journalists based at the county

and are in the process of establishing

level who are already engaging with

“Governors Press Units� and other

the devolved governments. A number

media outlets. For instance, Garissa,

of organizations including the Kenya

Homabay and Kakamega, to mention

Correspondents

a few, are counties which have already

launched initiatives to train the

recruited senior journalists from the

journalists on reporting on devolved

mainstream press to manage their

governments.

media portfolios and many more are

This

actually in the process of doing so.

for a deliberate effort on the part

There is a realisation within the media

of the Media Council to plan an

industry that even media outlets must

engagement strategy with the county

begin to devolve. However, there are

governments, which will be media

also already a number of new media

owners and indeed other county

outlets in a number of counties, some

based media players.

run by journalists while others are by

The Media Council must take a pro-

non journalists.

active approach in this matter and

already

county

take

begun

poaching

developing

Association

scenario

have

calls

economic

and

social

spheres giving rise to uncomfortable stereotypical

views

of

certain

communities and regions. In certain regions, the national media have been as guilty as the National government in its service to the country; partisan, full of ethnicity, nepotism, and promoting and justifying unequal distribution of resources, jobs, services and generally enhancing regional and ethnic hegemony. In the early years of the tenth Parliament, some MPs from certain communities were so incensed by the dominance of the media by certain owners and ethnic groups that they contemplated bringing a motion to the House to legislate that each community be given radio and TV frequencies! This was driven by the fear that some dominant media owners had taken up inordinate number of frequencies and had established radio station in certain ethnic language whose agenda, the MPs feared was a deliberate agenda to manipulate their thinking of the targeted communities and marginalize them further as the national government had done over 41


mandate as a national institution is

at the County level to provide basic

recognized, respected and cascaded

information on the Council, the media

to the counties?

industry and taking feedback from

The County Governments are currently

the county government, residents,

so pre-occupied with their very survival

county media outlets and journalists.

against the perceived reluctance or onslaught of the national government

The Council can also explore joint

against devolution and the provision

activities with the County Governments,

of more resources that it they may

the CCK (or its successor in new

not think engaging with the Media

law) and the Ministry of Information

the decades since independence.

Council is a priority.

and Technology, media, training,

Although no motion was tabled, this

This means it is the Council that

public literacy campaigns, policy

argument and feelings remained

must initiate the move to engage

formulation,

alive and in the engagement between

with them, and fast enough to make

and information sessions and feed

MPs, the Parliamentary Committee

it visible and relevant to the county

backs to inform national planning.

on Energy and Communications,

units and their leadership.

Of immense value will also be the

public

participation

lending of expertise in media laws,

and the Media Council, on policy and legislation, the feeling was palpable.

The Media Council may need to

policy and other areas of need to

The issue if ethnic domination of the

consider some initiatives to inform

the nascent county governments as

media industry has been so alive that

the engagement. These include a

they develop their laws and policies

even at the Media Council where

preliminary engagement with the

and

I served for six years as a nominee

governors and some of their chief

Council can also mediate or arbitrate

of

officers including their media units to

actively in cases of conflicts between

how

market the Council as relevant and

the county governments and both

carefully even if in some sort of light

important national partners in media

county and national media and with

hearted way we would handle it to

regulation. The Council can also

the journalists and also intervene

ensure that the leadership was not

develop a sustainable engagement/

to protect journalists who may be

top heavy with any one community.

consultative

in danger from powerful but errant

This feeling pervades many regions

county governments’ Communication

of the country and is ingrained in the

“Ministries” and media units for

thinking of many leaders both at the

continuous

national level and at the counties. The

and to influence policy formulation

seek

Governors and the County Assembly

and legislation besides organising

indicate areas of mutual benefits,

members and other politicians may

workshops/forums

to

brief

the

and not a patronising and policing

love media publicity.

County

members

–in

approach

the

Kenya

Association,

I

Correspondents remember

framework

information

Assembly

with

the

sharing

establish

their

media.

The

county leaders The engagement framework must to

build

which

confidence

may

and

generate

ethnic

regional clusters on the Council’s

misunderstanding and hostility at the

considerations about the configuration

mandate, media laws and policies

very early stages of the existence of

of the media and its role over the

to guide their own legislative work to

the county governments.

years in shaping national agenda

ensure it is in tandem with national

to their advantage or disadvantage

laws and policies.

But

their

regional

and

Mr Oloo Janak is a Journalist, media consultant and Chairman of the

will inform the kind of relationship and legislation they will generate to

Further, the Council can map out

Kenya Correspondents Association.

govern the media environment in

existing and emerging media outlets

williamjanak@yahoo.com

their areas.

in each county and begin to engage

So how should the Media Council

with them on the Council mandate

and

related

the

County

Governments

engage to ensure that the Council’s 42

media

issues

and

also

opening “service centers” or offices


The media is key in enhancing image of Parliament The last few months have been marked by acrimony between the National

Priscilla Nyokabi

Assembly and the media, sometimes resulting into the media being locked out of Parliament. MP Priscilla Nyokabi explains the key role of the media in promoting Parliament’s image.

I

have had the pleasure to attend a number of workshops organised by the National Assembly. At one such fora I had the pleasure to serve as a discussant on the topic of improving the public image of Parliament. I shared the session with an experienced and knowledgeable professor. One of the key issues for Kenyan MPs is the disconnect between constitutional functions of oversight and lawmaking visa- vis constituents experience around MPs giving welfare monies and participating in Harambees. This is especially important given our Harambee problem – MPs are judged not on their work in Parliament of Legislation and Oversight but on how much they give in Harambees. It was agreed that as part of revamping the image of Parliament a legislation should be passed locking out political leaders from taking part in Harambees similar to the position with Judges and the Military. The media should concentrate on the law making role of Mps. The presentations were well received and

in this article I am happy to point some key highlights of the presentation towards enhanced image of Parliament. Status of Parliament in the eyes of public To the public Parliament is the solely mandated law making arm of government and the place where citizens exercise their sovereign will through their elected leaders. By this fact, all the citizens of the country look up to Parliament as the place where their interests and aspirations are represented and safeguarded. It is inevitable that Parliament will be under prominent focus by the public and the media, even in situations that are not necessarily warranted. Public leaders have a reduced sphere of private space. To enhance the public image of Parliament, there is need to fully comply with statutory requirements for public participation and public involvement. According to Article 118(1) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 “Parliament shall conduct its business in an open manner, and its sittings and those of 43


its committees shall be open to the public, facilitate public participation and involvement in the legislative and other business of Parliament and its committees and Parliament may not exclude the public, or any media, from any sitting unless in exceptional circumstances the relevant Speaker has determined that there are justifiable reasons for the exclusion”. Article 35 of the same Constitution provides that every citizen has the right of access to information held by the State; and information held by another person and required for the exercise or protection of any right or fundamental freedom. It further stipulates that the State shall publish and publicise any important information affecting the nation. This therefore calls for the passing of the Access to Information Bill, 2013 to provide for a detailed framework on release of information. Current Situation In the recent days, as the country settles in the new dispensation, Parliament and Parliamentarians have come under considerable focus from the media and the public and particularly the civil society. This focus has without doubt left parliament’s reputation and image in the eyes of the public dented. There is no policy, guideline, strategy that has been passed to guide communication to the public and media on behalf of parliament. It is true that the media should have a right and access to cover parliamentary proceeding not MPs. The media should make deliberate efforts to cover negatives and downplay positives about Parliament. The trend by many in the society is to discuss Parliament negatively. These include Independent Commissions and the civil society. By its nature and the fact that the population feel that they have a direct input in making Parliament, it is measured by a higher yardstick than other government departments and thus gets more coverage.

44

Re-election to Parliament Election outcomes to Parliament often reflect the opinions of the electorate. The image of Parliament is the image of MPs. This implies that the chances of an MP being re-elected is correlated to the image that the voting public has of Parliament. It is notable that the re-election of a Member of Parliament heavily relies on the confidence a member enjoys from the voting public. This confidence is largely influenced by the information the public know of Parliament as an institution of governance. The image of Parliament may in many ways lead to voter apathy that can alienate even the most hardworking and diligent leaders from the voter. Indeed, Kenya’s voters have shown an unprecedented affinity to voting out their member of parliament. This has led to Kenya having one of the highest turn-over of MPs. This is evident from the number of members who come back after the general elections. The 9th Parliament recorded one of the highest turn-over in independent Kenya. Only 25.5 percent of members who served in the 9th Parliament came back implying that a staggering 74.6 percent of members of the 10th Parliament were new. The 11th Parliament was sworn in on 28th March within the 30 days stipulated under the constitution after the March 4th 2013 general elections. Almost three quarters of the Members of the National Assembly of the 11th Parliament are new. In order to redeem the image of parliament, Members of Parliament need to be able to effectively communicate with the public and manage their personal reputations in a way that reflects a positive image of parliament. Parliament leadership should cultivate a culture of openly sharing of information with the public through various fora. Of utmost importance is that Parliament should cultivate a working relationship with the media. Even with the

media oversight role it is possible for Parliament, Mps and Media top find a middle line that informs the public. Parliament should work with Parliamentary Reporters, Editors and Owners. It needs to revamp its media and communication department and beef up the services with an external public relations company. There is also the need to invest in social media engagement. The Communications and Public Engagement Department would prepare information materials on Parliament. Additionally, Parliament should address and embrace the concepts of personal branding – beauty within and without. Beauty within is adherence to legal and constitutional tenets and common rules of decorum and etiquette. It is important to note that integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is watching. There are new standards as our Constitution legalises moral norms. Parliament needs to have increased and enhanced public confidence rivalling the Judiciary. To this end Parliament may need to adopt some of the communication strategies adopted by the Judiciary Transformation Programme like the Judiciary open days. We should have Parliamentary Open Days as we prepare to mark the 50th anniversary. Lastly, there should be more information on caucusing in Parliament and the passage of the Affirmative Action Social Development Fund Bill, 2013 to create a Fund for use by Women Representatives in their areas of representation complementing CDF and working on areas including alcohol and drug abuse, adult education, light industries and market development, capacity building, table banking and talent development. This Bill will enhance the image of Parliament as a place of equality for men and women. Priscilla Nyokabi is the Women Representative for Nyeri County. wakili.nyokabi@gmail.com


Accreditation In accordance to sections 4(k), 13(2), 19(1) and 36 of the Media Act 2007, the Media Council of Kenya undertakes Annual Accreditation of journalists practicing in Kenya for purposes of compiling and maintaining a register of journalists, media practitioners, media enterprises and media training institutions in Kenya.

Accreditation fees •

Local Journalist: Ksh 2,000

Foreign Journalist: Ksh 10,000

Foreign Journalist (Short Term - 3 Months): Ksh 5,000

Student: Ksh 300

Requirements for Accreditation • • • •

• • • •

A letter from the employer; Freelance/journalists accrediting for the first time are required to produce a letter of reference from the organisation they correspond for, a portfolio of work done and proof of professional training; A clear passport photograph taken on white background; Accreditation fee (Ksh 2,000 for local journalists, Ksh 5,000 for foreign journalists staying for less than a year, Ksh 10,000 for foreign journalists staying for 1 year and Ksh 300 for students). Students should produce a letter from school and a student ID. Foreign Journalists are required to provide the following: A letter from the employer Professional Certificate that is either a Degree of Diploma in Communication from a recognised training institution Portfolio of work done either in Print or Broadcast ( Please provide the work not website links) in addition to a clear passport size digital photograph, a valid work permit and Passport

IMPORTANT TO NOTE 1. Certificates and portfolio should be provided by ALL journalists accrediting for the first time with the Media Council of Kenya 2.

First year students are not eligible for accreditation. Training institutions are advised to issue them with introduction letters when carrying out filed based assignments.

In case of any queries, contact us at: accreditation@mediacouncil.or.ke


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July september 2013 media observer magazine  

The July-September 2013 issue of the Media Council of Kenya’s quarterly magazine, the Media Observer, focuses on the theme Ethical and Respo...

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