Interior Cabinet Secretary (CS) Kithure Kindiki on Wednesday, May 3 called for a review of the payment terms of Kenyan journalists.
In a statement he issued while commemorating World Press Freedom Day, Kindiki slammed media owners among other media sector actors for treating the thousands of journalists lacking basic human provisions due to poor pay in exchange for reporting on local and international issues as normal.
Kindiki called on media owners to ensure they pay journalists commensurately with their daily duties and the current cost of living.
“It is pretentious of us to expect independent media and unbiased information from reporters when journalists go for months without pay and others cannot sustain themselves because the pay is too little. Today is my day to call for a review of the payment terms of journalists in our country – ensuring they are given some remuneration commensurate with their day’s work and today’s cost of living. There must be equal pay for an equal day,” the CS stated in part.
Kindiki further spoke on the individual safety of Kenyan journalists, which has been under threat in recent weeks, particularly during the Azimio la Umoja demonstrations.
The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) had termed March 2023 as the darkest month in the history of Kenyan media, revealing that over 25 local and international journalists were injured in the Azimio protests.
“We continue to promote this by embedding the media in all our activities, including security operations because we firmly believe in an open society and the media represents this openness in our democracy. We will continue protecting journalists to do their job – online and offline and punish those who threaten the safety of reporters in their line of work,” he assured.
The CS further encouraged Kenyans not to abandon the media, letting “us talk for them, even as they talk on our behalf” and that the financial independence of an individual journalist is equal to the overall independence of the media.
“However, sometimes it gets hard to identify the real journalists from criminals, which brings the question of freedom and safety off balance. Across the country, we have all manner of people carrying cameras, a pen and a notebook and sometimes armed with fake badges trying to penetrate the media space for their own reasons. Sometimes, this has led to cases of extortion as reported in some of our police stations. This must stop,” he went on.
Kindiki promised that his Ministry of Interior will work with all media players to ensure the current media space is not only protected but also expanded systematically in order to eliminate opaqueness in the security sector that more often than not leads to misinformation and speculation.
“In the coming days and weeks, I will be inviting the Media Owners, the Editors Guild, the Kenya Union of Journalists, the Correspondents Association, the Media Council of Kenya, Crime Reporters and other players in the media industry to a thematic dialogue – “Security and the Media Dialogue” to ensure we talk with each other and move conversations about media freedom in our sector to action,” he promised.
Celebrated on May 3 every year, World Press Freedom Day was declared by the United Nations General Assembly declared to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression.
The right to freedom of expression is enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year’s theme is “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a driver for all other human rights”.
The last quarter of 2022 saw nearly all the major media houses in the country declare their intentions to fire staff owing to reasons such as operational costs, and digital disruption among others.